Literally meaning ‘oil noodles’ (don’t worry – they’re less greasy than you might expect), this dish was born around Musashino in western Tokyo. Both noodle joints Chinchintei and Sankou claim to be the originator of this mix of soupless noodles, toppings and vinegar – they both started selling it over half a century ago.
Since the dish contains little to no oil, it seems strange that the name has stuck. Some say it’s to differentiate it from tsukemen, some say it’s because there’s some oil in the sauce, but we like the explanation that you’re ‘coating’ the noodles with sauce as you eat. In that sense, abura soba is almost identical to ‘Taiwanese’ maze-soba (a type of dry noodles with condiments, which is actually from Nagoya) but tends to have simpler, and fewer, toppings.
The golden rule is to mix everything up before digging in, as there’s a sauce hidden in the bottom of the bowl. Add vinegar and chili sauce/paste to taste, if provided; we like to chuck in a soft-boiled egg as well.
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