To me, at this moment in time, hiyashi chuka just makes sense. Not only is the Japanese chilled noodle salad absolutely refreshing – a must during these sweltering days of summer – but it also features the sweetest, crispest vegetables available at the market right now: tomatoes, corn, cucumbers. Plus a light and tangy sauce that takes no time to whip up.
Hiyashi is typically made with chilled ramen noodles, also known as chuka soba. Look for dried or fresh chuka soba at Asian markets or, in a pinch, use instant ramen noodles. I've also seen versions of the dish with buckwheat soba noodles and even angel hair pasta. Whichever noodles you use, make sure you top them with a colorful variety of vegetables and perhaps ribbons of egg omelette and a meat of your choice. (This is a great, adaptable dish for serving a mixed crowd of vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores, and the recipe below includes a list of other topping possibilities.) Then comes the sauce, which is vinegary, sweet, and just a bit spicy. I like to use ginger juice, while some people add hot chili oil or karashi, Japanese hot mustard.
All of the components may be prepared ahead of time kept in the refrigerator until you're ready to eat lunch or dinner. Hiyashi chuka is best when very cold, so this is actually ideal!
Japanese Cold Noodle Salad (Hiyashi Chuka)
6 ounces dried chuka soba/ramen
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tomato, sliced (or halved cherry tomatoes)
1/2 cup cooked corn kernels
1/2 cup julienned cucumber (preferably Japanese or Persian)
1/4 sheet nori seaweed, cut into strips
Some other possible toppings: bean sprouts (blanched), carrots (blanched), chicken, crab, green onions, ham, lettuce, micro greens, pickled ginger, shrimp, wakame seaweed
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ginger juice (squeezed from freshly grated ginger)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
Toasted sesame seeds
Karashi hot mustard (optional)
For the noodles
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the noodles. Cook for 2 minutes or according to package directions. Drain. Plunge noodles into a bowl of ice water to cool completely. Drain again.
For the eggs
You will be cooking between 1-4 round omelettes and cutting them into strips. The thinner the better, but the thickness and number of omelettes you can make will depend on the size and type of skillet you use – you'll get about 3-4 omelettes from a non-stick skillet and 1-2 in a regular skillet.
Whisk together the eggs, salt, and sugar. Heat some oil in a skillet over medium heat. Pour some of the egg mixture into the skillet and cook until set on both sides. Repeat as many times as needed with the remaining egg mixture. Cool the omelette(s) and slice into very thin strips.
For the sauce
Whisk together ingredients for sauce. Set aside.
Divide the noodles between two plates or bowls. Arrange eggs and other toppings and garnish with sesame seeds. Serve with hot mustard on the side, if desired. Just before eating, drizzle with sauce to taste and toss.
(Images: Emily Ho)