One look at my pantry and you can easily surmise that I have a hoarding problem of rice and noodles of the non-perishable category. It is about 50% overtaken by pasta of all types including egg noodles, tagliatelle, rice pasta, lasagna sheets, orzo, penne and currently 9 boxes of spaghettini just in case. Of course there are the noodles of the asian variety: vermicelli rice noodles of various thickness, bean thread noodles, buckwheat (soba) noodles, Japanese thin wheat somen noodles, Chinese wheat noodles, Korean wheat noodles in two thickness and a few packs of toxic-delicious Japanese instant ramen for um, lunch emergencies. As for rice, there is always 15 lb bags of both brown and white long grain rice, glutinous rice, black glutinous rice, Japanese sushi rice, red rice, basmati rice and risotto rice. If I could ever find that elusive bomba rice around these parts to make a proper Spanish paella, you can be sure I would stock-pile that too.
Someone out there feels me on this, right??
Oddly, I am a relentless purger in all other areas of my life. I'm not too keen on amassing things. I resist buying nic-nacs that clutter my living space, not to mention the landfill where it would eventually end up. So this specific hoarding issue is a complete affront to my personality. So there's the paradox of that and, despite such a well-stocked pantry, I still found myself running out to the store amidst meal preparation, kitchen a complete mess, to buy the specific noodles of a specific thickness I liked for this Japanese-style cold summer noodle dish. Go figure huh!
With that confession and rambling out of the way, I now give you the recipe for my Japanese-style cold summer noodles. It is similar to the cold ramen noodle dish hiyashi chuka and completely inspired by the version hubby and I used to eat regularly at a Japanese restaurant below our downtown condo, pre relocation to midtown suburbia + babies. Or in other words - what feels like a lifetime ago!
Make ahead: Everything can be prepared in advance the morning of or even the day before. Although if making the day before, I would still leave the cucumber prep until morning of since it can get a bit watery over time. The cooked noodles, ham, egg and cucumber should be kept in the fridge and taken out about an hour before serving to take the chill out of it. The sauce can be kept at room temperature on the counter until ready to use. This is a great dish to prepare as a casual lunch or as a side for a summer BBQ for a crowd since so much of the prep can be done in advance. Gotta love that!
Alternative diets: For a meatless option, the ham can be substituted with a meatless savory component such as marinaded tofu. I think that would be super delicious! For gluten-free diets, use 100% buckwheat soba noodles instead.
Japanese-Style Cold Summer Noodles
Recipe serves 4.
For the sauce:
6 tbsp light soy sauce or tamari
2 tbsp honey or raw cane sugar
3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp sesame oil
For the egg crepes:
4 large eggs
1 tsp honey or raw cane sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 tsp water
For the remaining noodle ingredients:
1/2 lb good quality ham (preferably not Black Forest ham or any other with a chewy skin around the edge!)
400g wheat "stick" noodles (see * note below)
*Note: my default brand is Wang's "asian style noodles" but if your store doesn't carry that one, look for a dry noodle with ingredients of simply: wheat, water, salt. Alternatively, the traditional version of Japanese cold noodles or hiyashi chuka uses fresh (not instant!) ramen noodles. If you have access to that, you can use that in the recipe. Both versions are delicious.
Japanese pickled ginger slices or gari, homemade or store bought (mine is homemade, colored with beet juice)
Thinly sliced cherry tomatoes (optional)
1. Prepare the sauce: Add all ingredients into a small pot and gently heat over medium heat, whisking, until the sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. Prepare the egg crepes: Heat a 6" non-stick pan over low to medium-low heat. While that is heating up, whisk the 4 eggs with the sugar, salt and water. Strain the egg mixture once through a fine sieve to get a smoother crepe. Use the back of a spoon to move the gooey, snotty (sorry) parts through the sieve. This takes a bit of patience! You may have to discard a small amount that just won't push through. Once the pan is fully heated, add about 1/4 of the egg mixture (which is about 1/4C) into the pan and swirl quickly to spread it evenly. Cook about 1 minute. Remove from heat, cover with lid and allow to stand about 2 minutes. Lift egg crepe gently from pan with a spatula. Keep on a plate to cool down, and continue with the rest. Make sure you allow the pan to heat up again a few minutes before adding the next portion of egg mixture. Once all 4 crepes are done, slice into thin strips about 1/3" thick.
3. Prepare the remaining toppings: Slice ham the same thickness as the egg strips about 1/3" thick. Wash the cucumber. You can peel it or leave the peel, that's up to you. If you have a vegetable spiralizer, you can spiralize the cucumber on the smallest holes. If not, no worries - cucumber can be cut into thin strips exactly how I've been doing it for years before I got my spiralizer gadget. If you are cutting cucumber by hand, make sure to cut them fairly thin about 1/8" such that they are rather flexible. As you can imagine, you'll want them to bend with the noodles and ribbons of ham and egg crepe you'll be eating them with.
4. Prepare the noodles: Bring a pot of water to a boil and add as much salt as you would to cook Italian pasta. Cook the noodles in accordance with package directions, taking care not to overcook. That said, unlike Italian pasta which should be al dente, in this case the noodles should be fully cooked through yet definitely not mushy! Test a noodle strand once or twice along the way to get it just right. Once the noodles are done, drain them in a colander and rinse with cool water to stop further cooking in the residual heat. Move the noodles around a bit as you rinse them to ensure no pockets of hot noodles remain. Shake off excess water and allow it to sit in the colander a few minutes before transferring into a platter. To prevent the noodles sticking together, drizzle with sesame oil (about 1.5-2 tbsp) and toss it around to coat. If you keep a nicer sesame oil around, this is the time to use it. Since there is no further cooking, the flavors will not cook off.
5. To serve, place portions of noodles into bowls, add toppings of egg, ham and cucumber. I opted to also garnish mine with kale microgreens and cherry tomato slices because both were abundant this time of the year. Serve with sauce for pouring over the noodles and pickled ginger, on the side.