This Cold Noodle Dish Is Ramen’s Cousin And You Need It This Summer
Ramen lovers know the typical summer conundrum all too well. All you want to do is slurp down a bowl of umami-packed tonkotsu or rich tantan ramen. The only problem is, do you really want to sweat through your clothes? Answers might vary depending on where you plan on going after dinner or the level of commitment you have to ramen. For most of you, a piping hot bowl of the addicting noodle soup is just too much for the heat. This is where cold ramen, or hiyashi chūka, comes into play.
Cold ramen noodles are topped with veggies, meat and other ingredients like pickled ginger, omelet slices and poached chicken. It’s ok to ditch the hot stuff for a few months and sub in this summery dish that’s pretty easy to prepare.
The fresh noodles are cooked al dente and the ramen is topped with tare sauce (often used in grilling as a teriyaki sauce). Tare is a sweet, thick soy sauce usually made with mirin, sake, brown sugar, sherry vinegar, garlic, scallions, ginger and black peppercorns. Another common topping is a dab of strong yellow horseradish mustard on the side of the bowl.
Known as reiman is western Japan, cold ramen comes with other toppings like strips of ham, cucumbers, carrots, apples, kelp, kimchi, scallions, bean sprouts, sesame seeds, barbecued pork, Daikon radish, chilis, corn and a fried egg. The term hiyashi chūka translates to “chilled Chinese.” It first appeared in Sendai, the second largest city north of Tokyo.
Cold ramen is the ideal meal during the hot summer months in Japan and has become somewhat of a culinary symbol of Japanese summer. All of the toppings are carefully arranged on top of the bed of noodles in a circular direction, representing the importance of presentation in Japanese cuisine. You can taste the price difference in the noodles depending on where you get it from. The cheap noodles are chewier and less flavorful, while the freshly made noodles are softer with a melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Hiyashi chūka should be colorful and vibrant and it makes the perfect light lunchtime snack when you have a ramen craving, but you can’t stand the heat.
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