In Edo, when someone mentioned `soba`, the image that came to mind was almost overwhelmingly that of boiled `sobagaki`. Hence unless one specifically asked for `cut soba`, no-one would understand if you were ask for `soba noodles` (men). In fact, this type of cuisine was derived from the `mugikiri` (or `cut flour`) (in other words, udon) favoured by the upper classes. However, it was the soba makers of Edo that made `sobakiri` famous.
The first of these soba makers to gain popularity was the `Kendon Sobaya`. Originally there was a store called `Kendon Udon`, so Kendon Sobaya was an imitation of this name. `Kendon` itself referred to `tsukkendon`, meaning `gruff, or surly`. Bowls would be piled high, with cheap seconds available for those who wanted them. `Bukkake Soba`, in which cold soba would be piled up on a dish and then covered in warm soup would become a staple dish. A relish (yakuaji 薬味) could be added for an extra fee. Daikon oroshi (finely grated Japanese giant radish), and dried flakes of mandarin rind were popular as condiments.
`Seven spice` chili powder is considered to be a `service` for customers, whereas from the point of view of the owners it brings in the money. Shallots only began to be used as a common condiment from the Meiji era onwards. If shallots were used during the Edo era, the dish would be described as `namban` (literally `southern barbarian`, meaning `foreign`). Thus it would have been difficult for `Kendon Sobaya` to offer cut shallots together with its dishes.
Kendon Sobaya was also known as `ni hachi soba` (28 soba). In an Ukiyoe picture by a third generation of Utagawa painters, Utagawa Toyokuni, there is a large signboard for Kendon Sobaya depicted in the background. There are two theories as to why Kendon Sobaya came to be called `ni hachi`. One theory goes `ni hachi refers to 16, which was the cost of a bowl of soba`. Another theory states that `the division of udon flour to soba flour was 2:8`. If you consider that there were other soba establishments with sign boards that mentioned `eighteen soba`, `twenty six soba`, and `thirty eight soba`, then `ni hachi` was probably referring to its price.
There were various kinds of soba offered at a sobaya by the close of the Edo period. The `Gozen Ōsero`, seeded dishes (which meant soba served with condiments) mentioned `ankake udon` (adzuki udon), `arare` (rice crackers square in shape), `tempura`, `shippoku` and `tamago toji` (boiled eggs). Incidently, green willow leaves that had dried seaweed sprinkled on top was called `arare`. Roughly cut dried seaweed that had been sprinkled over soba was called `hana maki` (sprinkled flowers). A black lacquered lid would be placed over the bowl. When it was lifted off, the aroma of the sea would waft upwards. This was a particular popular dish.
Dishes that included fried egg, fish paste sausage, shiitake, or `arrowhead` root were referred to as `shippoku`. They resemble the modern dish of `Okame`, yet in the case of Okame, fish paste sausage is laid over matsutake mushrooms. Before the Edo era, `tempura soba` did not consist of two large prawns placed over the soba as is the practice today, but was made up of small prawns mixed into a flour paste and fried. `Zaru soba` only came to resemble the modern practice of placing pieces of dried seaweed over the soba from the 10th year of Meiji onwards (1877). Until this time, soba placed on a bamboo frame was referred to as `zaru soba`, whereas soba served on a plate was called `sara mori`, which was abbreviated to `mori soba`. Steamed bamboo soba (known as Ōseiro) really was steamed in a bamboo basket, a practice that continues today. Placing heaps of cold soba on a bamboo frame was a trend that came much later.
When one speaks of soba, one also thinks of the pleasant slurping sound made when eating it, yet the high pitched sound made when eating soba only came to be commonly heard after performances of rakugo started to be played over the radio. In Edo, a soft `suck, suck` sound was permissible, but a `slurp slurp` sound was regarded as uncouth. Soba, before the Edo era, only consisted of a base of 1/3 soup. If the amount of soup was too great, it would be too hot and thus people would have to pucker their lips up more in order to eat it thus resulting in a `slurp slurp` sound. If there was only a bit of soup in the bowl, then a `suck suck` sound would result.
Looking at a recipe of the early Edo era, soba was made by `combing a cup of mirin with a cup of soy sauce, mixing them together, steaming the mixture and then adding daikon, finally placing this mixture in a bowl`. The soup at the time was very spicy. If only a bit was added to soup, this would be fine, but if a lot was added, your throat would burn.
Even now there are soba makers that offer `soba manju` for people to eat. The reason for this was because soba was first produced by confectionary shops. Manju is still made using steam bamboo baskets. At some distinguished old soba maker stores, `soba manju`, `soba bōro`, and `soba yōkan` are still available.(87-91)