Untangling My Chopsticks – The Art of Kaiseki and My Toshikoshi Soba

I just finished reading Untangling My Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto by Victoria Abbott Riccardi.  A delicious book about her journey to learn the art of Kaiseki or 会席.

Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course seasonal dinner that accompanies the formal Japanese tea ceremony.  Kaiseki also refers to the skills and techniques that allow the preparation of such an elegant meal.  Read more on Kaiseki here and here.

Kaiseki: The Exquisite Cuisine of Kyoto’s Kikunoi Restaurant is a visually stunning book although you won’t likely be preparing the dishes from this Michelin rated restaurant at home on a frequent basis.

Victoria’s writing style is beautiful…I truly felt part of the journey…discovering the culture, customs and lifestyle of Japan. Through her detailed descriptions I gained a sense of the people, the seasonal food (key to the Kaiseki) and the natural beauty of the country.  And well…if you like a love story you will find that too!  You will devour this book and rush to the kitchen to savor every recipe as you “live” in Kyoto.

What I know after reading this wonderful memoir is that I will visit Kyoto one day, I will attend a Kaiseki and I will make the recipes presented in Untangling My Chopsticks.

Until then, a virtual visit and my version of Toshikoshi Soba (Year-Crossing Soba)

Kyoto Garden cc attribution by Bordas

Kyoto Women cc attribution by Marc Veraart

Kyoto Girl cc attribution by Sashimi 7

Kyoto Markets:

Kyoto Market cc attribution by Christian Kadluba

Kyoto Market cc attribution by Banzai Hiroaki

Peek around and you will quickly see that I love Asian food, especially noodles.  My new noodle bowl and sake set, my first attempt at sushi rolls, a shrimp and udon noodle bowl and a soon to be published post on homemade shrimp and cabbage dumplings in dashi (subscribe or follow me on twitter so you don’t miss the dumplings – they were out of this world and super easy to make).

Now on to my Year-Crossing or Year-Bridging Soba Noodles:

(そば or 蕎麦 or Soba is traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck and long life.  Recipes vary from family to family but the dish always includes soba noodles and dashi.  I buy all of my Asian ingredients at Pacific Mercantile which also has an on-line store.

While I am a little late in making my year-crossing noodles, about a month late…I will just have to consider this bowl as my month crossing noodles!

My Toshikoshi Soba (Year-Crossing or Year-Bridging Noodles) inspired and adapted from Victoria’s book:


Serves 4

3/4 pound bunch of fresh spinach or 4 baby bok choy (I have used both and it works well either way)

5 cups dashi (I used dashi powder)

5 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon mirin

4 large eggs

8 ounces dried soba

4 shiso leaves minced

Shichimi (Japanese Red Pepper mix ~ red pepper, orange peel, yellow sesame seeds, black sesame seed, seaweed and ginger)


Trim stems from spinach and add a small amount of salted water to sauce pan.  Steam until just wilted.  Drain, remove excess water and cut into 4 service bunches. If using Bok Choy, steam whole and place two halves in bowl “hugging the noodles”.

Prepare dashi according to packet directions and add soy sauce, mirin and bring to simmer.

Bring a small pot of water to bowl, cook soba until al dente.  Drain.

Using same sauce pan as for spinach, poach to eggs or use your preferred poaching method.


Twirl 1/4 of soba into noodle bowl, add 1/4 of the spinach.  Gently arrange the egg on top of spinach and ladle broth into bowl.  Garnish with a shhiso leaf and Shichimi pepper).

It was heavenly as the creamy yolk melded with the dashi broth and coated the noodles.

This post is linked to Novel Food, Wanderfood Wednesday and Foodies Reading Challenge.  Check them both out and join.  The journey is delicious!

{Kyoto photos used under creative commons attribution~ use terms}


3 responses to “Untangling My Chopsticks – The Art of Kaiseki and My Toshikoshi Soba

  1. Having recently read the same book, I know how inspirational it is. Very nice choice of recipe. Thank you for contributing to Novel Food.

  2. Pingback: Hiyashi Soba and Tempura ~ Daring Cooks Challenge « On and Off My Plate

  3. Your post is delightful! Unfortunately for me, the book isn’t in my library system, but perhaps I can convince someone to buy it and add to their collection. 🙂

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