Hiyashi chuka is my go-to dish as soon as it’s warm enough to stop wearing long sleeves. The cool noodles and the refreshing tang of the vinegar really hit the spot on a hot summer night, and it helps that there’s not a lot of cooking to do, so I’m not sweating buckets by the time I sit down to eat.
Hiyashi chuka is a customizable cold noodle dish using the same egg noodles often used in ramen, called “chuka men” (Chinese noodles). Although there are tons of variations (and you’re welcome to try your own), for this Japanese Recipe Adventure, we’ll take a look at the style you’ll most commonly find in Japan. But it will be much better because you’ll have made it yourself!
This recipe makes two bowls of hiyashi chuka.
For the noodles and toppings:
- 2 portions of chuka men (or any other egg noodle)
- 1 egg
- Oil as needed
- 2 slices of ham
- 1 Japanese cucumber (or half an English cucumber)
- Half a large tomato
- Mustard and beni shoga (red pickled ginger) for garnish (optional)
For the tare (sauce)
- 6 tablespoons of vinegar
- 4 tablespoons of cold water
- 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
Cutting it fine
The hardest part is cutting your toppings into neat, thin strips. For the egg, you’ll make a very thin omelet, which is basically just a sheet of egg. If you use too high a heat, it will get dry and crispy, which is hard to cut into thin strips. Instead, use low heat, then, once cooked, gently roll up the egg sheet and cut it into thin strips.
Cut your cucumber into four quarters. Then, slice each of those quarters into thin slices. Stack a few slices on top of each other, and cut as thinly as possible, using your knuckle to guide the knife.
The ham is much easier to cut into strips. Cut the tomato into wedges. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. No one will judge you if you can’t get your strips Michelin-star thin, but here’s the low-down on knives if you want that perfect Japanese-style cut.
With your ingredients ready to go, it’s time to put this cooling dish together.
- Crack your egg into a small bowl and mix until you can no longer see streaks of white.
- In a small frying pan (in my case, a small pan for rolled omelets) on very low heat, add a small amount of oil and pour in the whisked egg. Flip if the bottom is getting overdone, but the top is still jiggly. Once cooked through but not browned, remove from the heat.
- Roll up your egg layer and cut it into thin strips. Cut the ham and cucumber into similarly thin strips. This cutting method is called sengiri in Japanese.
- Remove the stem and core from the tomato, and cut it into wedges.
- Combine the sauce ingredients and mix until the sugar dissolves.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles as per the packet instructions.
- Remove the noodles from the hot water and run them under a cold tap in a sieve or colander. Set aside with a few ice cubes on top for extra cooling.
- Combine everything in a bowl, and enjoy with beni shoga and mustard to your liking.
Putting it together
Once you’ve got everything ready, all that’s left is arranging everything for that perfect Instagram photo. There’s no set order, necessarily, but I tend to do noodles, followed by toppings, followed by a generous drizzle of sauce all over everything.
This dish is not exactly the same as a bowl of ramen because you likely won’t find yourself wanting to drink the soup at the end. Instead, try to mix everything up in the bowl thoroughly so that everything has a good coating of the sauce. Add some red pickled ginger and mustard for a kick of heat, which is the opposite of what we set out to do, I guess, but it is delicious nonetheless!
How do you cool down in Japan’s blazing summer heat? Don’t keep it to yourself. Let us know your secrets in the comments!