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Buckwheat Flour

Buckwheat Flour

(Fagopyrum esculenta) Derived from the seeds of a plant belonging to the same family as sorrel, rhubarb and dock. The flour is used in Japan to make soba, the traditional Edo noodles, long, thin and grey-brown in color. Dough from flours such as buckwheat, corn and millet are not as elastic as wheat flour and harder to roll (one reason why soba-making is such a skill). Buckwheat, in various degrees of refinement, is the main ingredient in soba noodles. Pure buckwheat noodles, that is to say without wheat flour added to the dough, are known as tachi soba or 'silk cut noodles' after the special cutting action required, reminiscent of the shearing motion used on high-quality silks by the kimono-makers of old.

The darkest buckwheat flour, inakako (least refined), is used to make the dark, sweet noodles known as yabu soba. A medium-grade flour, seiro, is more yellow-green in color. The most highly refined buckwheat flour (sarashina flour) is also the most expensive.

From the endosperm of the kernel it is pure white, as in the soba it makes, gozen soba, (gozen meaning 'to be served before nobles'). White flour lends itself best to flavoring and coloring, and there are a number of popular variations. These include yuzu rind (fragrant citrus rind that flavors and tints the soba a vivid yellow for kawari soba) and green tea (for cha soba). Other additions include red ginger, green shiso leaves, black sesame seeds and even cherry blossoms.

In Indian cookery buckwheat flour is often blended with other flours such as besan or wheat flour or with cooked, mashed green banana or potato for easier handling. Buckwheat flour is used during the nine-day Navratra fast in spring and autumn, when grains are to be avoaided.

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