Hiyashi chuka (冷やし中華) is a chilled noodle dish made from ramen noodles and a variety of colorful toppings that represent summer. It is served with a tare (たれ), or dipping sauce, either on the side or in the bottom of the shallow bowl in which the hiyashi chuka is served. Hiyashi chuka, literally translated, means “chilled Chinese”, but the origin of the dish doesn’t seem to be from any one country. Hiyashi chuka first appeared in Japan around 80 years ago in Sendai. The dish has a mix of Japanese, Chinese, and even American influences. Ramen noodles are originally Chinese noodles and many of the toppings have a western flair to them, while the sauce and plating is quintessentially Japanese. Even though the dish has many countries of influence, none of these countries claim the dish as their own and even now it’s unclear of the true origins of the dish.
When people think hiyashi chuka it’s usually accompanied with thoughts of summer. In fact, the farther south in Japan you get (and the more hot and humid the area is), the more popular the dish seems to become. Because of the cool noodles and broth, it’s a very popular dish to eat during the hot summer months. The refreshing, chilled toppings help cool you down during a hot summer, while the light, slightly sour dipping sauce wakes up your taste buds, even during lazy summer days. It’s also a great meal for leftovers, no need to re-heat!
With it’s yellow ramen noodles and bright, colorful toppings, such as fried eggs, cucumbers and sliced ham, hiyashi chuka is a very visually appealing dish. These aren’t the only toppings that you can put on hiyashi chuka however, as the dish can vary greatly by region or even by restaurant. Popular toppings include ginger, carrots, tomatoes, chicken, or a number of other foods; if you have any seasonal vegetables that you want to cook, hiyashi chuka is a great dish for them.
Cooking hiyashi chuka at home is a quick and easy thing to do. Since most of the ingredients are chilled, the most time-consuming task in making hiyashi chuka is just cutting and preparing your toppings. Making the sauce is simple, all that’s needed for 250ml (50ml is enough for one serving) is:
- Rice vinegar (about 4 ½ tablespoons)
- Soy sauce (6 tablespoons)
- Sesame oil (3 table spoons)
- Cooking sake (3 tablespoons) and
- Sugar (3 tablespoons)
Just heat about 2 tablespoons of water in a fry pan, then add all the ingredients and mix well, then let it cool down and put it in the fridge to make it cold. After making the sauce, it’s time to prepare your toppings.
If you’re planning on putting a fried egg or sliced omelet on the dish, it’s best to start there in order to give the egg time to cool. To make a Japanese style omelet, all you need is two or three eggs, some salt, some sugar, and some mirin (みりん) and a small bit of dashi powder. Just mix a little bit of salt, sugar, mirin, and dashi together and fry, then roll it up, let it cool, and slice it thinly. After slicing the egg, prepare and slice any vegetables or proteins you plan on pairing with your noodles. To make the noodles, just boil “chuka soba” noodles or some ramen noodles as you usually would, then pour the hot water out. Fill the pot containing the noodles with cold water and drain at least 3 times to chill them down. Arrange the toppings on top of the noodles in sections, pour the sauce over the noodles, and then enjoy! You can also add some karashi (からし) spicy mustard and red pickled ginger to the side of the dish for a zing of flavor.
If you don’t feel like making your own sauce, there are also frozen and dry options to choose from, both of which come with a prepackaged sauce packet and noodles. In Japan, it’s even easier to satisfy your hiyashi chuka craving, as the dish is sold everywhere from 7 Eleven to high-end restaurants. Hiyashi chuka is almost exclusively sold in the summer months, however, so it’s always good to know how to make them or to have some packets on hand, in case you ever get a hiyashi chuka craving during the cooler months.
If you want something cool and delicious to eat this summer, stop by Asahi and pick up the ingredients to make some hiyashi chuka; we have everything needed to make it from scratch and we have the frozen variety, too. You can even buy a pre-made Japanese omelet to finish the dish off. Are you going to try some out this summer? What are some of your other favorite Japanese summer dishes?