Like any pasta, dry store-bought soba noodles pale in comparison to freshly made ones. Luckily, the buckwheat-based strands aren't difficult to master--especially when you have Akila Inouye as your teacher.
For three weeks in June, Inouye--the founder of Japan's Tsukiji Soba Academy--and local cookbook author Sonoko Sakai will teach the intricacies of making traditional soba at a series of hands-on classes and workshops.
Soba makers are revered artisans in Japan. The dough has little to no gluten (depending on if you're using 100 percent buckwheat flour or not), which takes skill to properly knead and cut. Since it doesn't take fancy equipment--just a rolling pin and a knife--you're already halfway to soba supremacy.
Any skill level is welcome, but the intimate classes at Sakai's Santa Monica home are the best place to start. Easy Handmade Soba for Beginners ($85) explains the fundamentals of making and preparing the noodles, while Basic Handmade Soba ($125) includes lunch.
The most serious students should take a workshop ($395) at the Sushi Institute of America, the first of their kind in the U.S. These six-hour classes cover all the bases, including how to prepare traditional soba dipping sauces and side dishes.
Those end with artisanal sake tastings--after the knives have been put away, of course.