4 Types of Soba Dishes without using Buckwheat Noodles

When you hear “Soba (そば)”, what comes to mind? Traditional Japanese buckwheat noodles? Yes, the Japanese word Soba usually refers to the buckwheat noodles.

However, in some cases the word Soba may refer to several different Japanese noodle dishes. 

5 Common Japanese Soba Noodle Dishes

Actually, there are 5 types of Soba noodle dishes commonly eaten in Japan. They are “Yaki Soba (焼きそば)”, “Shina Soba (支那そば)” or “Chuka Soba (中華そば)”, “Abura Soba (油そば)” or “Maze Soba (まぜそば)”, “Okinawa Soba (沖縄そば)”, and “Nihon Soba (日本そば)”.

Have you ever heard of all of these Japanese noodle dishes? Don’t worry, for those who know little about them, today I will talk about the difference between them.

Yaki Soba (焼きそば)

Yakisoba noodles

First off, Yaki Soba, together with Ramen, (buckwheat) Soba, and Udon, is one of the noodle dishes that represent Japan.

It is made by stir-frying somewhat thick boiled or steamed wheat noodles with pork belly slices and vegetables, such as cabbage, carrot, onion, and bean sprout, in a shallow pan with some oil. 

Generally, Yaki Soba is seasoned with Japanese-style Worcester sauce during cooking, together with soy sauce, salt and pepper.

This noodle dish is commonly made in Japanese households, and besides a variety of instant Yaki Soba noodles, including these, are available at supermarkets in Japan.

Shina Soba (支那そば) or Chuka Soba (中華そば)

Chuka Soba or Shina Soba

When you see the photo above, you will probably think this is a bowl of ramen. Yes, actually Shina Soba and Chuka Soba are synonyms for Ramen.

Although the name of many Japanese ramen restaurants includes the word Soba, say Japanese Soba Noodles Tsuta or Chuka Soba Tomita, the Soba in these cases derives from Shina Soba or Chuka Soba.

Abura Soba (油そば) or Maze Soba (まぜそば)

Abura Soba or Maze Soba

If you are acquainted with Japanese Ramen noodles, you may also know well about Abura Soba. Abura Soba, also called Maze Soba, is a type of Ramen that is soupless.

As “Abura (油)” means oil in Japanese, instead of broth, sesame oil and a soy-sauce-based sauce are first placed on the bottom of the bowl, onto which boiled noodles and other ingredients are put.

The typical topping includes Char-siu pork, Menma processed bamboo shoots, and chopped green onions.

After the Abura Soba is served to you, you can add vinegar and chili oil to your preference, and then you need to mix all the ingredients well as “Maze Soba (まぜそば)” literally means Mixing Soba.

There are not only Abura Soba specialty restaurants in Japan, but you can also enjoy Abura Soba or Maze Soba in instant noodle form, like this.

Okinawa Soba (沖縄そば)

Okinawa Soba

As the name indicates, Okinawa Soba is a specialty of Okinawa Prefecture and consists of a bit curly, thick Udon-like noodles in a soy-sauce-based broth made with pork bones and dried bonito flakes

The thick noodles for Okinawa Soba don’t contain buckwheat at all, but are made from wheat flour. They have a texture similar to Udon noodles.

Since this regional noodle soup is popular nationwide in Japan, you can find restaurants that specialize in Okinawa Soba in various places around the country.

Nihon Soba (日本そば)

Nihon Soba

In the case of telling traditional buckwheat Soba noodles apart from other Soba dishes like the above, the specific name “Nihon Soba (日本そば)”, literally meaning Japan Soba, is used.


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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