Ramen Chilled To Perfection
The ever popular Japanese ramen soup is a great cool weather meal but when the temperature is up the last thing you want to do is sweat over a steaming bowl of soup. Also if you are not too adept at using chopsticks and fear being seen with soupy blotches on your light coloured clothing then opt for one of the non-soup versions of ramen noodles. Abura soba, a “dry” ramen is served warm with the intensly flavoured, tare, or salty seasoning but no soup component. One version I tried in Nagoya just came with some seaweed flavoured salt to mix through the ramen before eating while others use the chef’s secret combination of soy, soybean paste, pepper and concentrated stock to season the dish. I find a cold ramen even better; not only for a perfect hot summers meal but also any leftovers make a great lunchbox meal to take to work. My version is based on the recipe from Adam Liaw’s new book, The Zen Kitchen. I used 100% buckwheat soba noodles, a few vegetables and a shredded poached chicken thigh. I have even made a very tasty cold ramen with left over roast pork belly. It might be something to think about next Christmas when you wonder what to do with the leftover turkey. I think the secret to this cold ramen is the deliciously nutty sesame seed dressing, made by pounding half a cup of toasted seeds in a mortar and pestle with sugar, soy, sake, sesame oil and mirin. It is really worth making it from scratch and keeping a jar in the fridge ready to dilute with rice vinegar and water to dress your ramen dish. The sauce is also lovely for dressing vegetables, such as green beans, so any extra won’t go to waste.
- 2 bundles of buckwheat soba noodles (approx 180 g)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 small carrot, cut into matchsticks
- 4 spring onions, cut finely lengthwise
- 1 Lebanese cucumber, cut into matchsticks
- 1-2 chicken thighs (approx. 170 g)
- 1 tbs pickled ginger, finely sliced
- 2 tsp black sesame seeds (for garnish, optional)
Boil the soba noodles in a pot of boiling water for the time suggested on the packet (usually around 6-8 minutes). Drain and plunge the noodles into iced water to cool and stop cooking. Drain well and set aside.
Place the chicken in a pot of water brought just to simmering point. Poach for 2 minutes and then cover the pot and turn the heat off and leave it for 10 minutes. Remove the chicken, let it cool and then shred it into little pieces with your fingers. Add the shredded chicken to the soba noodles and refrigerate.
Prepare the egg noodles. Heat a frypan with a little vegetable oil and pour over the beaten eggs and allow them to spread over the surface of the pan. Cook until just set and turn off the heat. Once a little cooled remove to a chopping board, roll it up and slice the egg pancake finely with a knife. Add this to the soba noodles and refrigerate while you prepare the vegetables and the dressing.
Sesame Sauce Dressing
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds
- 1 tbs caster sugar
- 2 tbs sake
- 2 tbs mirin
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 sesame oil
- 1 tbs rice vinegar, extra for diluting the dressing
Lightly toast the sesames seeds in a dry saucepan, stirring continuously. Remove from the heat. Add the sugar and pound in batches with a mortar and pestle to make a paste. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix to a smooth sauce. It will look a bit like a satay sauce. Mix the sauce with rice vinegar and water at a 3:1:1 ratio for dressing the ramen. Store any remaining sauce in a glass jar in the fridge.
Place the egg noodles, soba, vegetables and sliced pickled ginger in a large mixing bowl. Mix the dressing using 6 tablespoons of the sauce, 2 of vinegar and 2 of water. Pour the dressing over the ramen and mix thoroughly with your hands or salad servers and distribute to each serving plate. Garnish with black sesame seeds or snipped chives.