Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hiyashi Chūka

In the dog days of summer, there is pleasure in eating cold dishes. Nobody knows these more than the Japanese who have hot, humid summers.

The name gives away the origin of the dish. It quite literally means "Chilled Chinese". In Japan, you will see this dish on restaurant menus only in summer. In fact, its arrival suggests that summer is here.

It basically consists of cold noodles topped with cooled vegetables (of various kinds), other cold toppings like crab and shredded eggs covered with a Japanese version of a very light, sweet-salty, umami-laden "vinaigrette".

The noodles can be varied — popular ones include ramen, somen, even soba (which is what the CC used.)

The toppings are traditional too — cucumbers, carrots, thinly sliced Japanese-style omelette, crab sticks, tomatoes, negi, even various kinds of seaweed.

True to Japanese washoku style, the entire assembly requires some effort but it's entirely worth it when the weather is as hot and humid as it is now. It mostly consists of chopping stuff, and assembling it, and is very amenable to making in advance.

There is a free-form element to this dish so the "recipe" should be taken as a starting point not as "definitive". In fact, there's no such thing. Restaurants vie with each other to produce versions that attract clients but there's a core logic that must be respected.


1 cucumber (kyūri)
3 crab sticks
1 tomato
1 carrot
1 scallion (diced thinly at a steep angle)
2 eggs
1 tbsp mirin


1 cup dashi

8 tbsp dashi
1 tbsp white sesame seeds
1 tbsp black sesame seeds
1 tbsp sesame oil


Toast the sesame seeds. Mix with the ingredients for the dressing and set aside.

First make a very thin Japanese-style omelette with eggs, mirin and 1 tbsp of rice vinegar.

When cool, roll into a tight roll and slice very very thinly.

Dice the cucumbers, carrots and tomatoes into strips. Boil the crab sticks in the dashi, and when done, cut into thin strips.

Cool all of the above while you make the noodles. Dunk the noodles inside iced water to cool.

Assemble the lot and pour the dressing all over them.

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