Hiyashi Chuka or Cold Ramen is the perfect summer-weather companion. It’s tasty, fresh, and incredibly easy to make!
I can’t remember the last time I ate at a restaurant. Is this statement really that outrageous? I find it funny and a little odd how some people are actually literally shocked by this little tidbit whenever it crops up in online conversations. They ask me things like: How do you handle not going out AT ALL? How can you just go from home to work every single day, without a change of scenery? Isn’t life super boring this way?
Is it though? I haven’t been bored a single moment I’ve spent at home the past year. In fact I’m even busier here than at work. I often even feel like I never have enough time to do my stuff when I’m home. Maybe it’s just the way my psyche is built. Maybe I’m just a bigger homebody than I realized. One thing I’m sure of: It has a lot to do with how I had unwittingly managed to rearrange my perspective on the entire situation from the start.
Rather than feel bad about having to stay in lockdown, I decided that it was still possible to learn certain aspects of the outside world that I love to explore from right at home.
Now that I think about it, in the past year alone, I think I’ve learned a wider variety of recipes compared to the last two or three years combined. All the time I’ve spent avoiding eating out has translated to time I’ve spent learning to make the same dishes I probably would’ve ordered. I learned to make dishes I love and dishes I’ve always wanted to try from different parts of the globe. I’m also proudly on my way to becoming a home-cafe barista, because I now also know how to make a whole bunch of delicious beverages. (This might be my favorite part!) And without even boarding a plane, I feel like I’ve grown my “worldly knowledge” quite a bit. That’s something, right?
You can say the recent diversity in the recipes I’ve been sharing on the blog is an effect of all the learning and experimenting I’ve been doing. This Hiyashi Chuka is a great example actually. This Cold Ramen is one of my favorite things to order in a Japanese restaurant. I don’t even have an explanation for why I love this stuff. Normally I prefer to eat soul-warming food, but for some reason I really like cold noodles. (Same with bibim-nanegmyeon.)
The Hiyashi Chuka is basically a cold noodle salad dish with a tangy soy-and-sesame dressing. It has lots of toppings, which are also cold. It’s quite the PERFECT noodle dish for this sweltering weather. I wish I could say I love this because it’s bursting with flavor, which it is, but how does that reasoning set this apart from most Japanese food? I guess it’s true what they say: Love is hard to explain.
- WHAT KIND OF NOODLES TO USE? When I made my hiyashi chuka, you probably already noticed I used soba noodles rather than ramen noodles because that’s what I had. Ideally, you want to use ramen noodles for this dish because the flavor and bounce of ramen noodles gives the dish an overall better eating experience. If not available, soba is fine.
- CAN I SKIP INGREDIENTS FOR THE DRESSING? Short answer, no. Frankly, the only thing you can skip here is the chili oil, but only if you really cannot stand spicy things. (Likewise, you can go ahead and up the chili oil if you like it spicier.) I highly suggest you mix in all the other seasonings because the dressing won’t quite taste right and as alive.
- WHAT TOPPINGS CAN I ADD? There are no set rules when it comes to the toppings for Hiyashi Chuka, but generally, it’s a combination of vegetables and meats that taste good even when cold. For the meats: Sweet ham, chicken, shrimp, and imitation ham comes to mind. For the vegetables: Lettuce, cucumber, carrots are great additions. I personally highly highly recommend tomatoes and corn. Shredded nori is great too. Typically, thinly sliced eggs are added on top, but I skip it on days I feel lazy. As a rule, try to make your toppings as colorful as possible. Pretty much anything will taste good with the noodle dressing.
- HOW DO YOU EAT HIYASHI CHUKA? Pour a generous amount of the dressing right onto your noodles and toppings, then mix together and enjoy right away. It’s really up to you how much sauce you want to pour on. Some people like the dressing to pool at the bottom of their plate, soaking the noodles as they eat. (Some restaurants actually serve it this way.) Meanwhile, some people just want enough dressing to coat each strand of noodle but not feel like there’s “soup” on their plates. In my opinion, it’s best to serve these noodles with the sauce/dressing on the side and let the diner decide how much they want.
For the noodle dressing
- 6 tablespoons soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- ¼ teaspoon grated ginger
- ½ to 1 teaspoon La-yu chili oil
For topping options
- 3 servings of ramen or soba noodles
- Shrimp, cooked in boiling water
- Imitation crab sticks, or crab meat, shredded
- Japanese cucumber, julienned
- Lettuce, shredded
- Tomatoes, cut into wedges
- Corn kernels
- Hams, sliced thinly
- Scrambled eggs, sliced into thin strips
- Nori strips
- White sesame seeds
- Japanese pickled ginger
Make the dressing
- In a bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients. This can be made in advance and kept in the fridge until ready to use.
- Cook the noodles in boiling water according to package instructions. Immediately drain the hot water and rinse noodles to stop the cooking process. Soak the noodles in a bowl of iced water to cool down completely. Drain again and divide the noodles on serving plates or bowls. Make sure your serving vessels have enough room to mix the noodles.
- Arrange your toppings of choice on top of the noodles, arranging them side by side. Around the plate until the noodles are covered. I like to place some pickled ginger on the very center of my arrangement. Drizzle with a generous amount of dressing and serve, allowing the diner to mix everything together. Enjoy!
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