Hiyashi chuka, or chilled ramen noodles, can be topped with whatever produce is in season (as long as it's pretty).
Hiyashi chuka, or chilled ramen noodles, can be topped with whatever produce is in season (as long as it's pretty).
Photo by insatiablemunch

Meatless Mondays: How to Make (and Shop For) Hiyashi Chuka, or Chilled Ramen Noodles

Houston is a mosaic of cultures, and its cuisine reflects that. With that in mind (and in honor of Meatless Monday), each week we’ll explore a new globally-inspired vegetarian or vegan dish, and take a look at where to find its ingredients in Houston; Discover other Meatless Mondays here.

This week, we’re traveling to Japan with hiyashi chuka.

Also referred to as reimen, or chilled noodles, hiyashi chuka is a cold ramen dish that is traditionally served in the summer thanks to its refreshing nature. Noodles are artfully topped with an array of colorful ingredients, things like carrot, cucumber, tomatoes, bean sprouts, pickled ginger, wakame or nori (seaweed) and tamagoyaki (rolled omelette), or whatever produce is in season. Protein is another common factor, from shrimp, crab and ham to poached chicken and barbecue pork (though we’re skipping those to go vegetarian). The entire dish is served cold and finished with a tare sauce — usually a thick, sweetened soy sauce kissed with rice vinegar, ginger, sugar sesame oil and sesame seeds. If you want to add heat, tack on some chili oil or karashi (Japanese hot mustard).

Shopping for the ingredients is the perfect reason to check out Japanese market Nippan Daido, 11146 Westheimer. Though the store is on the smaller side, it packs a punch by offering a wealth of Japanese items. Pick up fresh produce and sushi-grade fish; peruse the sauces, seasonings and condiments like shoyu, karashi, bonito, miso and kewpie mayo; check out the variety of tofu, noodles and rice; discover hard-to-score imported items like teas, sake, Japanese beers and beauty products; get grab-and-go items like rice bowls, spicy tuna, salmon rice balls and fresh cream puffs; and stock up on Pocky, natto (fermented soy beans), mochi and matcha and green tea flavored candies and goodies.

Now that you're done shopping, it's hiyashi chuka time. This recipe takes advantage of summer produce by adding corn and tomatoes to the mix, while the sweet and vinegary soy sauce gets a bit of heat from a karashi garnish. Feel free to take inspiration from your market adventures and incorporate any toppings that tickle your fancy.

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