It was a sharing of both culture and skills, as Japanese chefs visited the USS George Washington on March 6, in Yokosuka, Japan.
Soba chefs from the Shonan International Women’s Association, as well as local Japanese chefs, paid a visit to the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to share with enlisted culinary specialists, as well as any interested Sailor, the process behind preparing and cooking the traditional Japanese noodle dish Soba.
The U.S. Sailors learned how to properly prepare the dish from scratch – no more instant Soba noodles moving forward.
While there is no single tale regarding the origins of Soba, a very thin noodle made from buckwheat flour, it is believed that the dish became popular in Japan during the Edo period (1603 – 1868), where it was produced in temples and consumed in tea ceremony establishments.
The Sailors learned how to create the thick dough, flatten it out, and layer them before slicing each individual noodle into the correct width, before molding them into the proper shape. Culinary Specialist Seaman Recruit Samantha Santiago shared: “The most challenging part was the hand movements… You have to be almost perfect because if you don’t finish it quickly the noodles will dry out.”
Culinary Specialist Seaman Katherine Laboy, on the other hand, shared: “The noodles were actually colder than you would expect… The temperature caught me completely off guard.”
While Sailors aboard the George Washington are usually served American-style foods, the event provided the ship’s culinary specialists with a chance to become familiar with Japanese foods, and help them expand the diversity of the ship’s galley food. Santiago shared further: “It’s fulfilling to say that I’ve lived in Japan for three years and learned how to make local Japanese food… When I get home [back in the U.S] I would love the chance to show everyone what I’ve learned.”