Despite the ramen craze that has swept the world, outside Japan, appreciation for ramen has mostly been limited to hot noodle soup. But did you know that there is such a thing as cold ramen? Hiyashi chuka is delicious!
Hiyashi chuka literally translates to “cold Chinese” but this dish of cold ramen topped with meat, seafood and vegetables is Japanese. By Western definition, hiyashi chuka would be considered a salad because preparing the dish is nothing more than assembling pre-cooked ingredients and tossing them with dressing.
There are two essential components of hiyashi chuka. The first is the noodles. The second is the dressing. The toppings can be anything you like. Cucumber, kani (imitation crab sticks) and sliced omelette are traditional. You many add ham, shrimps, barbecued pork, sweer corn and nori too.
If you equate ramen with instant noodles, set that mindset aside for now (in fact, totally disregard that notion from now on). Good hiyashi chuka starts with fresh ramen which you can buy in Asian groceries or in the Asian section of supermarkets.
Prepping fresh ramen requires two steps. First, cook the noodles in boiling water for a minute or so just to refresh. Fresh ramen is already cooked but you want to remove any taste and aroma of the packaging. And you want to separate them too. Stir the noodles in the boiling water with tongs or chopsticks to separate. Then, drain the noodles in a colander.
To prevent the ramen from turning soggy (they really should be springy and a bit chewy), dump them in a bowl of iced water after draining. Stir and leave for the noodles to turn cold. Then, drain them well. If you follow these steps, the noodles will neither stick together nor turn soggy.
Hiyashi chuka dressing is salty, sour and sweet with the nutty flavor and aroma of sesame seeds and heat from the ginger. The traditional ingredients are soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, ginger, sesame seed oil and toasted sesame seeds. Chili oil may be added too but I find that if a generous amount of grated ginger is used, chili oil is not necessary.
As for the toppings… For my version of hiyashi chuka, I beat two eggs and cooked them as a very thin omelette. I rolled the omelette into a log before sliding in onto the chopping board. I sliced the omelette as thinly as I could.
The meat component of my hiyashi chuka was pork teriyaki. The thin slices of pork were cut into strips.
The rest of the toppings consisted of shredded kani, julienned cucumber and fresh sweet corn cut from the cob.
When all the components of the hiyahi chuka were ready, I placed a mound of ramen at the center of a shallow bowl and arranged the toppings around them. The dressing was spooned over everything and the cold ramen was garnished with seasoned nori before serving.
- 3 packs fresh ramen (1 pack = 150 grams)
- drizzle sesame seed oil
- 2 large eggs beaten with two pinches of salt
- 250 grams cooked pork teriyaki (see notes after the recipe)
- 1 cucumber
- 1 ear sweet corn
- 6 kani (imitation crab sticks)
- seasoned shredded nori
Boil two liters of water in a pot. Drop in the ramen. Using tongs or chopsticks, separate the noodles. Cook for about a minute then drain. Dump in a bowl of iced water and stir. Allow to noodles to turn cold. Drain. Set aside.
In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the dressing. Taste. If you prefer a different balance of salty, sour and sweet, adjust the amount of soy sauce, rice vinegar or sugar. If you prefer a stronger ginger flavor, add more grated ginger.
Drizzle a bit of sesame seed oil into a large non-stick frying pan. Pour in the beaten eggs, tilting the pan around to make the egg spread. Cook just until set. Using a spatula, lift one side of the egg and proceed to roll the omelette into a log. Slide onto a chopping board and slice thinly.
Cut the pork teriyaki into thin strips.
Peel the cucumber. Split vertically and scoop out the seeds. Cut the cucumber into matchsticks.
Cut the corn kernels from the cob (see how).
Shred the kani (see how).
Divide the noodles among four bowls.
Arrange the toppings around the noodles.
Spoon the dressing over the noodles and toppings.
Garnish with seasoned nori.
Serve the hiyashi chuka.
For the pork teriyaki, slice the pork thinly then cook following the recipe for chicken teriyaki, substituting pork for the chicken.