Chow Bella

3 Places to Slurp Hiyashi Chuka (Cold Ramen) This Summer in Metro Phoenix

Cold ramen from Hana.
Cold ramen from Hana. Allison Trebacz
When you close your eyes and think of ramen, you probably see steaming hot ramen. Maybe shio, shoyu, tonkotsu, or another of the main varieties popular here, culled from the hundreds that exist in Japan. Some bowls of ramen incorporate chicken bones, some salt, some seafood stock. Some are dark bowls with a jammy egg, or light with pork belly and seaweed. And yes, some ramen are even cold.

It’s summer in metro Phoenix. Hot soup isn’t helping anyone. So you need to track down a bowl of hiyashi chuka (cold ramen) if you want to indulge in this great world soup. Here are three places to enjoy chilled noodles in the Valley.

click to enlarge A closer look at these chilled noodles. - ALLISON TREBACZ
A closer look at these chilled noodles.
Allison Trebacz
Hana Japanese Eatery
5524 North Seventh Avenue

Traditionally, hiyashi chuka may be served with chilled noodles, razor-thin strips of egg, and cold deli ham. “It’s like if you were to take a package of Oscar Meyer lunch ham.” says Lori Hashimoto from Hana Japanese Eatery. “They cut it into strips and they put that on there and that’s the way it is in Japan, too. They actually use lunch meat.”

Hashimoto notes that version at Hana departs from tradition somewhat. The broth is more like a sauce or vinaigrette of soy and seame. It’s like an “over-dressed noodle,” Hashimoto says.

The hiyashi chuka at Hana is made with chilled ramen noodles, tamago (grilled egg), English cucumber, and pickled ginger. It’s not served with lunch meat, but a slice of yakibuta, or braised pork. All of these pieces are dressed with the same rich, sweet-and-sour sauce.

Hana serves one other cold noodle dish called zaruten, if you want more than chuka. It’s cold soba noodles with a tentsuyu dipping sauce and tempura on the side. The sauce is dashi (stock made from kombu and bonito flakes) mixed with soy sauce and other flavors, not unlike the dressing on Hana’s hiyashi chuka.

click to enlarge SoSoBa on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix. - JACKIE MERCANDETTI
SoSoBa on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix.
Jackie Mercandetti
214 West Roosevelt Street

SoSoBa’s hiyashi chuka is an off-menu item that appears as a special. When not on special, the cold noodle dish can be had upon request. SoSoBa’s take on chilled ramen looks like standard hot ramen – noodles in broth, a slice of crispy pork belly, and the signature half boiled egg. The noodles hold shape until they melt on the tongue. It’s a nice kind of colder melting with no heat or steam. After cooking, noodles are cooled immediately in water. The center of each strand is still warm.

The cold broth the noodles come in is a blend of dashi and apple cider vinegar. This is garnished with pickled cucumbers, the slice of pork belly, and a crunchy seaweed salad. But it’s the pork belly that makes this dish a treat. It has been cured for two days. It’s crispy, melts in your mouth, and interacts magically with the acidity of the apple dashi.

SoSoBa’s version is a chilled noodle bowl that balances sweet and spicy, salty and acidic. The unique dashi changes the cold noodle dish into an even more refreshing meal.

click to enlarge The exterior of Obon. - JACKIE MERCANDETTI
The exterior of Obon.
Jackie Mercandetti
15037 North Scottsdale Road, Suite J1-95, Scottsdale

Obon in Scottsdale is serving chilled tsukamen ramen that reaches the sweet spot for noodle texture: starchy and a little bit sticky. For Obon’s tsukamen sauce, Chef Paulo Im uses homemade dashi, soy sauce, sake, and other ingredients to create a flavorful sauce reminiscent of traditional shoyu (soy sauce) ramen broth.

Im keeps his cold ramen mostly traditional, serving chilled noodles with strips of cold meat (prosciutto), a sheet of nori (dried seaweed), and marinated bamboo. Eggs, scallions, and sesame seeds float in the rich, dark soy sauce.

Everything is separate, but the flavors come together. Lets face it – not everyone can dip a dozen chilled ramen noodles in sauce, maintain the right ratio of prosciutto to egg, and do it all without dripping. If you can or can’t it doesn’t matter here. Obon’s chilled tsukamen is delicious either way.
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