For those in the northern hemisphere suffering from summer heat, how about a cold ramen? Hiyashi chūka is made with cold Chinese-style egg noodles, with sweet vinegar sauce and topped with vegetables, egg and ham. It is a great dish to have on a hot summer day.
I came back from a Canada/US trip a couple of weeks ago. New York was really hot, over 30C/86F. That’s when I thought of hiyashi chūka. It is the middle of winter here in Sydney but the day I got home was unusually warm. It was around 25C/77F when I played golf in the afternoon. So I didn’t mind making and eating a cold noodle dish.
Yes, I landed in Sydney in the morning after a 14 hour flight. I hardly slept on the plane but I played golf in the afternoon. I wasn’t sleepy or tired at the time. This kept me awake during the day and fixed the jet lag straight away allowing me to go to bed at 9pm, waking up at 6:30am. The fastest recovery from jet lag ever!
OK, I got off the track. Back to the recipe. “Hiyashi chūka” (冷やし中華) translates to chilled Chinese food. “Hiyashi” (冷やし) means chilled and “chūka” (中華) means China, Chinese or Chinese food.
Although it implies Chinese, it is actually a Japanese dish, developed in early 1930s. I guess the reason for calling it chūka is because the noodle is the same as ramen noodle, i.e. Chinese egg noodle (ramen is also called “chūka soba” meaning Chinese noodles); and it was necessary to distinguish between cold Japanese noodles such as Zaru Soba (Cold Soba Noodles) and cold ramen.
If you can buy fresh Japanese ramen noodles, that will be best. I can’t get them so I usually buy fresh Chinese egg noodles from Asian grocery stores. These noodles are slightly thinner than ramen noodles. The noodles I used today are the top photo below.
They require boiling for a few minutes but I find that they are much better than already steamed/cooked noodles. They are usually used in Chinese wonton noodle soup.
I occasionally buy dried ramen noodles from Japanese grocery stores (bottom photo below). They keep longer than the fresh noodles of course. They require longer boiling time than the fresh noodles, usually 5-6 minutes but you should follow the instructions on the package.
You can use any of the egg noodles, fresh or dry, as long as they are not Hokkein noodles and not for pan frying such as Chow Mein noodles.
The noodles need to be washed under cold water once cooked. This will not only cool down the noodles quickly and stop further cooking but also tighten up the noodles, giving a firm texture.
Just like most of the other dishes with some toppings, you can vary the toppings. But typical toppings of cold ramen include cucumber (most common), kinshi tamago (shredded egg crepes – see the next paragraph for more details), bean sprouts and ham. Sliced tomatoes and wakame seaweed are also added in some cases.
Instead of ham, you could use steamed chicken or yakibuta (Japanese char siu – recipe will come next week). I have had a hiyashi chūka with crab meat or jelly fish strips on it, too. The important thing is to have toppings with different colours so that the dish looks pretty.
Usually, there are 4-5 toppings placed on the noodles and they are cut into thin long sticks except the tomatoes, which are sliced. Each topping is grouped together on the ramen noodles pointing to the centre.
Kinshi Tamago (錦糸卵)
This is made from egg crepes which are called “usuyaki tamago” (薄焼き卵). Instead of flour, milk and egg mixture like crepes, usuyaki tamago is made of beaten eggs and a small amount of seasoning. Some recipes add cornflour/corn starch mixed in water to it so that the crepes do not break easily but I prefer not to use it when making kinshi tamago.
The cooking method is similar to that of crepes. Spread the egg mixture thinly in a large frypan and cook – see the photos below. When all egg crepes are made, cut them in halves (to semi-circle) and then slice them perpendicular to the first cut to make thin strips. Because these yellow strips look like threads, they named it “kinshi” (錦糸) which means gold thread used in weaving. “Tamago” (卵) means egg.
The sauce for hiyashi chūka is usually made up of soy sauce, vinegar, sake, sugar and sesame oil. But I add a small amount of dashi stock to make the sauce less tart. If you love acidity, then you may not need dashi stock.
The ratio of ingredients to make the sauce is quite easy to remember. The proportions are: Soy sauce 8 + Vinegar 6 + Sugar 4 + Dashi stock 4 + Sake 2 + Sesame oil 1. For one serving use 40ml soy sauce, 30ml Vinegar, 20ml each of sugar and dashi stock, 10ml sake and 5ml sesame oil.
It’s a great noodle dish that requires minimal cooking. I can eat hiyashi chūka all year round!
Hiyashi chūka is made with cold Chinese-style egg noodles, with sweet vinegar sauce topped with vegetables, egg and meat. It is a great dish to have on a hot summer day. The instructions are long because I have explained the preparation of toppings in detail. But it is actually quite fast to make and minimal cooking is required. You can vary the toppings if you like. Please see note 5 for suggested toppings.
- 100 g (3.5oz) cucumber
- 100 g (3.5oz) bean sprouts
- 100 g (3.5oz) sliced ham (note 1)
- 5 g (0.2oz) dried black fungus (wood ear fungus/mushroom) rehydrated
- 160 - 200 g (5.6 - 8oz) fresh egg noodles (note 2)
- 2 eggs beaten
- a pinch of salt
- a pinch of sugar
- ½ tbsp oil
- Hot mustard (optional)
Add rice vinegar, dashi stock and sugar to a small pot and place it over high heat to warm it up enough to dissolve the sugar. You can do this in the microwave, if you prefer.
Remove from the heat. Add the remaining Sauce ingredients and mix. Leave until required.
Slice cucumber diagonally into 3mm (⅛") thick, 7cm long slices. Then julienne them into 3mm (⅛") wide sticks.
Steam or boil bean sprouts for a few minutes, then cool them down. If using a microwave, place bean sprouts in a bowl, covered with cling wrap, then cook for 2 minutes on high.
Slice the ham into 5mm (3/16") strips.
Boil black fungus for a minute, drain and finely slice it.
Mix the Kinshi Tamago ingredients in a bowl.
Add oil to a non-stick frypan and heat over medium high heat. Wipe excess oil with kitchen paper.
Hold the handle of the frypan in your dominant hand. Pour the egg mixture into the centre of the frypan with the other hand while moving the frypan to spread the egg outward thinly. You should use about 1/3 of the egg mixture using a frypan with a 25cm (10") diameter.
Cook for about 1 minute until the surface of the egg is almost cooked.
Using a cooking chopstick or a cake spatula, lift the egg gently and turn it over.
Cook for another 15-30 seconds. Place the frypan upside down onto a large cutting board to remove the egg crepe onto the board.
Repeat with the rest of egg mixture and place cooked crepes on top of each other.
Cut the crepes into half to semi-circle shape. Place one pile of semi-circle on top of the other and cut the crepes into 5mm (3/16") wide slices perpendicular to the first cut.
Boil water in a large pot and add noodles. Try to untangle strands of noodles when adding to the boiling water.
Immediately after putting the noodles into the boiling water, use chopsticks or a fork to pick and drop some strands ensuring that each strand is separated.
Cook for a few minutes as per the instructions on the noodle package.
Using a sieve, drain and rinse under cold water until the noodles are completely cooled down.
Shake excess water from the noodles off as much as possible and place them onto two serving plates.
Group each topping together, and place them on the noodles so that sliced toppings are all pointing to the centre except the black fungus which is placed in the centre .
Pour the sauce over and place the mustard on the side of the plate if using.
1. I used smoked leg ham but you can use any kind of ham. Other typical meat toppings are steamed chicken and yakibuta. I am planning to post yakibuta recipe next week.
2. I used thin Chinese egg noodles as I had some in the fridge. But you can use slightly thicker ones or even dried noodles (please see the sample photos in the blog). I find that ready-to-use steamed noodles tend to be too soft without firmness.
Hokkein noodles and Chow Mein noodles are not suitable.
3. Please refer to Home Style Japanese Dashi Stock to make dashi stock. If you prefer stronger flavour, you could reduce the amount of dashi stock or even omit.
4. You could also sprinkle roasted white sesame seeds or finely julienned yakinori (roasted seaweed) over the toppings. Some shops also add pickled red ginger in the centre to add colour to the dish.
5. Topping can vary. Other suggested toppings include sliced tomatoes, rehydrated wakame seaweed, blanched julienned carrot, steamed/blanched chicken breast, crab meat, prawns, julienned yakibuta (Japanee char siu - recipe will come soon).