Summer in Japan is all about noodles! Cold, refreshing and packed with a variety of fresh vegetables, slices of ham and egg crepe served on top of chewy ramen noodles and served in a zingy homemade sauce, this hiyashi chuka is delicious and ready in just 20 minutes!
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Japanese Summer Dishes = Noodles!
Summer in Japan is a extremely hot and humid time of year. Whether you like the extreme weather or not, we have many seasonal dishes to look forward to!
Noodles are the perfect summer dish. They're easy to make, don't require hours in the kitchen and can be eaten cold. Here are a few dishes that make Japanese people instantly think "summer"!
- Somen (Thin noodles with dipping sauce)
- Zaru udon (Thick udon noodles with dipping sauce)
- Zaru soba (Buckwheat noodles with dipping sauce)
- Hiyashi chuka (Chinese style noodles with meat, vegetables and sauce)
These are the most iconic summer noodle dishes!
What is Hiyashi Chuka?
Hiyashi Chuka is one of the most popular summer noodle dishes in Japan! It's made with ramen style noodles served in a cold, refreshing sauce. It is then topped with meat, vegetables and a type of egg crepe called "kinshi tamago".
The toppings are usually cut into thin strips (julienne) and then arranged on top. It's a colourful dish with beautiful presentation!
It's important to mix well before eating to ensure all the ingredients are coated in the sauce that sits at the bottom of the dish.
While Somen and Zaru Udon tend to be very basic with just noodles and dipping sauce, Hiyashi Chuka is always extremely colourful and served with a refreshing selection of ingredients.
Typical ingredients are:
- Egg (fried, boiled or egg crepe)
- Meat (Usually ham, but chicken, chashu, crab sticks, shrimps or salmon can be used)
The vegetables used in this dish are mostly seasonal which makes the dish even more attractive in summer!
"Kinshi Tamago" Shredded Egg
Hiyashi Chuka is usually served with "kinshi tamago" (錦糸卵), a thin egg crepe that has been cut into thin strips. It almost looks like noodles! They add good colour and texture to the dish.
To make the best kinshi tamago, you will need a sieve to remove any lumps and a non-stick frying pan to ensure the thin layer of egg doesn't stick and break when cooking.
One of the characteristics of hiyashi chuka is the use of ramen style noodles called "chukamen" (中華麺). Chukamen are a type of Chinese style noodle made from wheat flour, salt water and an alkaline solution called "kansui" which gives them their distinctive yellow colour.
Chukamen are firm and chewy. While they are recognised as "ramen noodles", they're also a key ingredient for yakisoba and hiyashi chuka.
What is "Chuka"?
The word "chuka" (中華) usually means "Chinese food" in Japanese, so many people are under the impression that hiyashi chuka is a Chinese dish.
Well actually, "chuka" simply refers to the ramen noodles used in the dish. Hiyashi chuka is a Japanese dish for sure!
Although this dish is usually made with ramen style noodles, it also works great with udon or even spaghetti. So don't worry too much if you can't find fresh ramen noodles! (If you want to make your own ramen noodles, try my ramen noodle hack with spaghetti!)
Hiyashi Chuka Sauce (Tare)
Hiyashi chuka's flavour comes from being served in a sauce we call "tare". The noodles sit in the sauce while the other ingredients are placed on top.
It's important to mix hiyashi chuka well before eating, this will ensure the flavour is carried throughout the dish.
There are two common types of tare.
Basic VS Sesame
Two of the most popular sauces for Hiyashi Chuka would be
Basic sauce is thinner, lighter and more refreshing, while sesame sauce has a thick and rich flavour.
In this recipe, I'm going to make a basic sauce because I find it more refreshing in summer. It's also quick and easy to make!
In the Tokai area, where I'm from, we often drizzle it with Japanese mayonnaise and I personally like to add a drizzle of sesame based chili oil to give it a little kick.