Stay Cool with Summer Ramen

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Every summer, I look forward to preparing this recipe of chilly noodles in a sweet-sour-salty sauce, topped with colorful seasonal vegetables and meats (or tofu). Summer brings such a variety of colors, textures, and flavors that one could eat this everyday without repeating the combination. It’s all a pretty party in your bowl! It’s easy-on-the-cook party-food, too: guests can choose their favorite fresh vegetables.

When I made this meal with the intent to post about it, including pictures of course, Mr. Tess waited patiently as I arranged two bowls to look pretty.
When we sat down, the first thing he did was stir the bowl, mixing the arrangement into wild disorder. I ate carefully selecting a tomato or a slice of cucumber, some noodles, some bean-sprouts, sipped some broth.
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I recalled my father in the nursing home last year, dipping his burger into his coffee, then into the soup, and finally into the ice cream. I tried to stop him from pouring the soup over the ice cream, but he seemed to enjoy his meal. When we kids complained about gravy running out of the mashed potatoes into the vegetables, he used to say, “It all goes to the same place anyway!”It’s interesting that there are many ways to enjoy an experience.
  • Toppings can be just about anything:
  • Combine foods of different colors and textures
  • Shred or julienne the toppings. Blanch or parboil as appropriate.
  • mung bean noodles
    Soak the mung bean noodles in boiled water for 5 minutes. Drain and cool under running water. Cut into 6-inch lengths. (or follow package directions)
  • soybean or mung bean sprouts
    see my note extolling soybean sprouts!
  • cucumber, julienned, salted for 10 mins. and drained
  • cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • lettuce shredded
  • chard, shredded & blanched
  • carrot, julienned & parboiled
  • fennel bulb
  • bell peppers, grilled, skinned, cut into strips
  • asparagus
  • broccoli
  • wakame
  • zucchini
  • green beans, parboiled
  • snowpeas
  • avocado, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • chashu
  • shrimp
  • crabmeat
  • squid
  • kanikama
  • firm tofu
  • cooked ham
  • chicken breast
Summertime Chilled Chuka Soba
Hiyashi Chukasoba

from: The Japanese Kitchen
•250 Recipes in a Traditional Spirit•
by Hiroko Shimbo
page 346
serves 4

The Sauce

  • ¼ cup mirin (sweet cooking wine)
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 ⅓ cup ramen stock or chicken stock
  • ⅓ cup shoyu (soy sauce)
  • 2 ½ Tablespoons komezu (rice vinegar)
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons ginger juice, to taste

In a saucepan, bring the mirin to a gentle simmer to evaporate the alcohol. Add sugar and ramen stock, and bring to a boil. Add the soy sauce and bring just to a boil. Transfer to a clean jar. Add the rice vinegar, sesame oil, and ginger juice. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.
Thin Omelettes

  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons vegetable oil (I used much less)

Stir the salt and sugar into the eggs. Note stirring with a chopstick works well because you don’t want to make the eggs frothy.
If you have a tamagoyaki-ki, a rectangular Japanese skillet, now is your chance to make use of it! Otherwise, use an 8-inch non-stick skillet or a well seasoned cast iron pan. Heat your skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, dip a wadded paper towel into a small dish of vegetable oil. Smear the bottom and sides of your skillet with the oil. Remove skillet from heat and spoon enough of the egg mixture to thinly coat the bottom of your pan. You may need to tilt the pan to cover the whole bottom. Return the skillet to the heat and cook the egg until it’s firm on the bottom. Lift the omelette and flip to cook the other side, about 3 seconds. Remove to a paper towel lined plate. Make 8 thin omelettes. Cut the omelettes into 2-inch long julienne strips.
Toppings (from the original recipe)

  • 3 cups soybean or mung bean sprouts
  • 2 ounces mung bean noodles
  • 1 small Japanese cucumber, julienned in 2 1/2-inch lengths
  • 8 tomatoes, cut in half
  • 10 slices chashu, julienned in 2-inch lengths

Noodles

  • 13 ounces dried chuasoba noodles
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the noodles al dente, 3 to 5 minutes, or as instructed on the package. Drain and wash under cold running water. Drain and toss with the sesame oil.
Condiments

  • 2 Tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted
  • Hot mustard paste or smooth French-style mustard

Serving
Divide the noodles among four individual shallow bowls. Decorate the noodles with the vegetables and omelette strips. In the traditional presentation, the items are placed in mounds like the colorful spokes of a wheel. Pour some of the sauce over each dish, and garnish with some sesame seeds on top and a dab of mustard on the rim of the bowl.
(The way I actually served this meal was to arrange the vegetables and meat on a large plate, the noodles in a bowl, the garnishes on the side, and the sauce in a jar ready to pour over. We each served ourselves.)

If you can get soybean sprouts rather than the more usual mung bean sprouts, try them: they are delicious. Clean the sprouts by cutting off the brown root tips. In a pot of boiling water (add a little vegetable oil), blanch the sprouts for 30 seconds. Immediately drain and rinse in cold water. Drain again.
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9 thoughts on “Stay Cool with Summer Ramen

  1. I also am glad summer is here. I havent done them yet but Im so looking forward to grilling some Japanese skewers. Soup and ice cream?! I thought my dad was bad with his salt on watermellon, but your dad takes the cake for the strangest combo ever.

    What is your take on Mirin? I don’t always buy it, instead I take regular full stregnth sake and mix sugar into it as a ‘homemade mirin.” Do you think that’s a common practice in the traditional sense? Ive always wondered about that.

    • Hi Sara!

      I’m way behind on posting here. I’ll be doing a post about making yakitori sauce (though there are posts from previous years—Ms. Shimbo’s version is really good. Unfortunately, we don’t have a table or anything yet for the hibachi so I did mine in the broiler. LOL: it was also raining a storm.

      Oh, I guess it does sound funny: soup on ice cream. My father went through a few years with Alzheimer’s disease. He was briefly in a re-habilitation place for another medical problem when he had that meal: he got very upset with me when I tried to prevent him from eating the way he wanted to. I seemed to always upset him. Maybe now that he’s gone, I’m beginning to understand that he was in a different world from me, and what seems logical to me may be was not logical for him.
      Sort of like you, thinking of people with birds hating cats, people who de-claw cats, people who let their cats outside…And yet, you can accept them. Sort of. You know: just because you don’t understand someone, it doesn’t always mean that they are wrong or bad or stupid.

      Anyway, mirin was originally a sort of fermented alcoholic beverage made by fermenting for a couple of months: glutinous rice, fermented (cultured) white rice, and shochu (distilled alcohol similar maybe to vodka???).
      It is not so easy to find around here in Michigan, though one local chain of grocery stores often carries it. The check-out people are always surprised that it rings up asking for ID, but it is because it has 14% alcohol!
      The (cheaper) mirin I usually use is made with glucose syrup, water, a small amount of alcohol and rice, corn syrup, and salt. Your substitute sounds very fine.

  2. oh Tess it’s so lovely to have you back in the kitchen! This is one of my favourite summer sobas – it’s so pretty, cooling and slips down so satisfactorily. On a day when you want nothing you can still eat this and enjoy it. You – as usual have made a particularly pretty one.

    On mixtures – my Dad when he was in his eighties asked for sauce with everything no matter what it was and if there wasn’t one to be had, like your Dad he improvised. Later I found out that he was losing his swallowing reflex and so needed something to wet the dry food a little. It was a new angle on dunking biscuits in milk or coffee. I miss the poor old sausage – we had such fun as kids with him.

    • Hi Carolyn,
      How is your kitchen remodeling coming along?
      You know that you can make a lot of this sauce, and freeze it for future use. Love to have it all summer almost ready-made!

      My dad always liked to dunk things into coffee. Usually “rusks” but I’m forgetting the Finish word for them, a dried toast.

  3. Oh yes what is the proper word for rusks?
    Our kitchen is slowly emerging. The cabinets have arrived and are being installed today and tomorrow. I have made a big morning tea and set up a site office up for the guys in the laundry. The blorgies are very interested particularly in the cakes but scarper at the mere mention of a power tool. I have chosen the tiles – Sicis – an Italian mosaic called petite fleurs in the colour rosebay. Have a look at their website under Sicis collections/petite fleurs, if you want. The main colours in the kitchen are a dove grey on the walls, white cabinets, cream woodwork around windows and doors and a sunny and bright yellow double sink. I love it – it’s 60’s Italian, enamel on cast iron. It weighs a ton but has lovely curves. $20 on eBay! I think it will be fun to wash up in.

    The pantry is duck egg blue with white shelves and Baltic pine supports which I will polish with beeswax. Want me to send you some pics?

    We still have a few weeks to wait for the bench tops to come and then the appliances can be plumbed in and then HOORAY we”ll have a kitchen and you and Mr Tess are invited for dinner!

  4. We love cold noodle dishes accompanied with some tofu, sardines, fresh vegetables; however, we usually use soba noodles. Soba noodles are delicious cold and their nutty taste very filling. Plus it changes things up from the usual wheat and rice.
    I will have to try your sauce. I love your cooking.

  5. Pingback: Shiso Pesto Miso Tomato Pasta « Tess's Japanese Kitchen

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