Homemade Hiyashi Chuka on a huge platter, good for 5-6 people. Who would have thought it would be this easy to make a pretty darned good version of this restaurant favorite of mine? I admit to a lack of restraint, and got the proportions of toppings to noodles a bit off, sort of like the way Pinoys put too much stuff on our paellas, but I promise there were lots of noodles under all of those carefully sliced ingredients on top.
A trip to a Japanese grocery earlier in the day yielded 6 portions (they looked small, but were deceivingly hearty) hand made but then frozen egg ramen noodles, some pickled ginger and some good rice vinegar. Back at home, the noodles were defrosted, plunged into boiling water for just a few minutes (they cook much faster than dry pasta) and transferred to a really icy bath of water and ice cubes. Drain well in a colander or clean kitchen towels and place in the center of your serving platter. I ended up using only 5 portions of noodles when I saw how much they expanded when uncoiled. BEFORE you cook your noodles, get all your other ingredients ready. I made a thin egg omelette with a bit of sugar(!), apparently the Japanese way, and cooled and sliced that into strips. I also sliced up some deli-bought ham, shredded some imitation crabmeat or sticks, julienned or shredded some cucumber, thinly sliced some tomatoes, steamed and peeled some white shrimp, and shredded some lettuce (this ingredient I have never had in Hiyashi Chuka before, but some Japanese recipes I checked had it, so I tried it). If there was some boiled or poached chicken in the house I could have added some of that. Essentially, I treat this like a Japanese “Chef’s Salad” but rather than lettuce, it has cold noodles. It’s the perfect dish for a hot summer’s day (though we had it on a cool late February evening instead). Keep all your sliced/chopped ingredients in the fridge to ensure the “cold salad” effect when it’s all assembled.
The dressing has a shocking amount of sugar in most of the recipes I glanced through, so I toned it down a little, aiming for more sourness. For this much noodles and stuff, I used just under a half cup of Kikkoman, about a fourth of cup of water, nearly half a cup of rice vinegar, two tablespoons of sugar, about a teaspoon of grated fresh ginger, and about a tablespoon of good sesame oil. Mix that up with a whisk and chill it down in the freezer or fridge until ready to use. To serve, pile on the sliced/chopped ingredients over the noodles, pour the dressing over everything, sprinkle with some toasted sesame seeds and serve with bowls and chopsticks. The first bite or two was delicious but we were missing something. It was the Japanese mustard so essential to balancing it all out. We tried adding a good Dijon mustard instead and it worked nearly as well. This was surprisingly good, for so little work. Will definitely be making this again soon. And even the leftovers, which sat in the fridge overnight, made for a slightly odd but delicious breakfast the next morning.