Recipe : Hiyashi Chuka

Back in the early days of bento catering, we came up something we called the hiyashi bento, a vegetarian rice salad with a sesame ginger dressing. It was an homage to the classic hiyashi chuka, a cold ramen salad that is the perfect antidote to the bayou-like conditions of summer in Japan.

It’s all about the sauce, a blend of ginger, rice vinegar, shoyu, and sesame oil that hits that perfect balance of sweet, savory, and sour. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. My own version adds in tahini for a creamier dressing that better coats the noodles.

It is the perfect après-farmers' market lunch, as it can handle whatever spring or summer produce you can throw at it: arugula, shiso, scallions, cucumber, tomatoes, garlic scapes, okra, the list is endless. The classic protein toppings are thinly sliced omelette and ham, though you can use just about anything cold. We used leftover roasted chicken breast here because that's what we had. Cold seafood like steamed shrimp or crab is also delicious.

With the latest heat wave hitting east LA, I’ve returned to the roots of the dish, combining my new-school hiyashi dressing with the classic I grew up on. I use fresh ramen from the Japanese market, but you can also use dried noodles if that's all you can find. It's also great over rice, if you don't have noodles or want a gluten-free option.

Hiyashi Chuka - Cold Ramen

For the dressing (enough for 4 salads) :
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp grated ginger

For 2 salads :
1 pack of fresh ramen noodles (about 6 oz per serving)
toppings of your choice :
handful of lettuce or salad greens
2 small cucumbers, julienned
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 carrot, julienned
1 watermelon radish, julienned
1 roasted chicken breast, chilled and sliced
1 egg, scrambled and cooked in thin sheets, thinly sliced
dash of sesame seeds or gomashio

First, to make the dressing, combine all dressing ingredients and whisk until fully combined. Set aside.

Then, prep the toppings as needed. Last, boil the noodles according to package instructions, then drain and rinse in cold water.

On two plates or shallow bowls, divide the noodles into two servings. Arrange your toppings on the noodles as desired. Give the dressing another whisk, as it separates when it sits, then drizzle each salad with about 3-4 tbsp of dressing, to taste. Mix and enjoy.