The Secret Joy Called Abura Soba | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

The Secret Joy Called Abura Soba 

By Luisa Seftel Jan 11, 2023

Before diving into the delicious world of abura soba, I need to thank one of my former classmates for introducing me to this fabulous noodle dish in the first place. Between all the sushi, okonomiyaki and ramen, I would have for sure missed it. Although living in Japan for almost a year and travelling to the country two times before, abura soba was never on my radar. So if you are a foodie like me and want to learn more about the secret joy called abura soba, then this article is for you.

What Is Abura Soba?

author_enjoyiny_abura_sobaPhoto credit: author 

Let’s start with the basics by defining the dish first. The Kanji name for abura soba is 油そば, which translates as “oil noodles”. As the name suggests, the traditional base is a mixture of pork grease, oil, and spicy sauce, which are poured into the bowl first. After adding the hot noodles, all other toppings are piled on top of each other, like green onions (たまねぎ), bamboo shoots (めんま), chashu pork (チャーシュー), and dried seaweed (焼きのり). Extras toppings such as half-boiled eggs (半熟玉子), meat and other vegetables can be ordered as well.

The History Behind Abura Soba

Abura soba is a Tokyo dish made in the 1950s. Although it is called abura soba, surprisingly, buckwheat noodles are not used in the cooking process. Instead, you can enjoy abura soba with ramen noodles, which are made out of wheat. So why are they called soba in the first place?

As I was diving into abura soba’s history, I learned that ramen (ラーメン ) is a relatively new used word in the Japanese language. Chinese immigrants brought ramen to Japan in the late 19th or early 20th, and the Japanese people called them chuka soba, thin Chinese noodles. The name remained at that is why until today, we call it 油そば. 

Is Abura Soba Healthy?

As I started my abura soba journey at the end of last year, I told people in my circle about it. The usual reaction was: “That sounds delicious, but oil noodles? That must be super unhealthy.” Far from it. Funnily enough, it’s a healthier option than ramen, as it is less calorie dense because no fatty broth is involved. The oil also fills you up more and keeps you satisfied longer. On another note, because of the absence of broth which takes a long time to make, abura soba tends to be cheaper than ramen. 

How to Order Abura Soba 


Photo credit: author 

Abura soba restaurants are far from fancy, and therein lies their charm. What you can expect is a simple set-up with long countertops. As you head into the restaurant, go straight to the vending machine, and put in money first (preferably 1,000 Yen and 100 yen, 500 yen coins, so make sure to bring cash). Then you choose the size of your dish (並盛, namimori = normal serving/medium size; 大盛, oomori= large serving; W盛 daburumori= very large serving) and add toppings to your liking. Finally, hand your food tickets over to the staff, find your seat, drink some free cold water, and wait for your abura soba dish to arrive. 

How to Enjoy Abura Soba


Photo credit: author 

There is a specific order to prepare your dish before you dig into it. So follow this curated guide and enjoy abura soba like a pro. 

Step One

Pour some chilli and vinegar oil while your dish is still hot. You can find the bottles in front of you. As oil is a great taste carrier, it goes super well with abura soba. If you prefer it spicier, add cayenne pepper or chilli. 

One of my personal favourites is adding extra garlic mayo, raw garlic and using the sesame grinder to make it even more delicious and creamy. 

Step Two

Mix everything well so that the oil base from the bottom covers all the noodles and the other toppings. 

Step Three

Start enjoying your dish while it is still hot. As you eat, keep mixing the noodles constantly, and if you feel like it, adjust the flavour with sauces and oils. 

My Personal Favourite Abura Soba Spots in Tokyo

1. Tokyo Menchintei Honpo Tsurumaki-Cho Shop

abura soba_favourite_nishiwaseda

Photo credit: author 

Address: ブラザー横山 102, 1 Chome−104−3 Totsukamachi, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 169-0071


2. Aburasobakasugatei Nishishinjukuten

abura soba_nishishinjuku

Photo credit: author 

Address: 7 Chome-10-14 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0023


3. Aburasoba Noseya


Photo credit: author 

Address: 大久保南口共同ビル 1F, 1 Chome−23−17, Hyakunincho, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 169-0073

Some Final Words About Abura Soba

Whether you have had abura soba in the past or just walked by these shops, this article might encourage you to find the best abura soba place near you. If you happen to be in Japan and crave a filling, healthy and cheap meal, use Google maps, type in 油そば and enjoy! We would love to hear about your favourite spots, so feel free to share them with us on our social media.

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