From cold noodles to chickpea salad.
When I used to live in San Diego, my friends and I would frequently eat at Chopstix, a Japanese restaurant that served cold noodles with imitation crab, seaweed, egg, cucumber, and chicken katsu in a sweet soy sauce dressing. I loved this “Hiyashi” ramen dish during the warmth of the summer, when it was a bit too toasty to enjoy ramen of any hot-broth variety. Over the years, I’ve made variations of these cold noodles by replacing the egg noodles with soba or udon; substituting the imitation crab and katsu with thinly sliced Canadian bacon or shredded meat from a roast chicken; and improvising on the original vegetables with jicama, carrot, cilantro, and bell pepper.
I find trying new vegetables in this cold noodle dish easy because most vegetables don’t require special preparation beyond chopping. However, I do like to marinate the jicama and carrot overnight in vinegar, sugar, and boiling water because the tartness and sweetness complement the crunch of these two vegetables quite well. For a medium-sized jicama and one large carrot, I mix about one-eighth of a cup of sugar with one cup of vinegar and enough hot water to cover all of the chopped jicama and carrot. I cut the jicama and carrot into thin matchsticks, mix in salt and press with the palm of my hand occasionally over the next hour to remove water, rinse under cold water to remove the salt, and then pour in the vinegar solution after it has cooled and let marinate in the fridge overnight. This “quick pickle” (which is not actually a pickle at all, I believe, because there is no fermentation) can keep in the fridge for several days.
After quick-pickling some jicama and carrot in preparation for cold noodles, I decided to try a rather drastic variation on Hiyashi ramen by replacing the noodles with chickpeas and dressing everything in a tahini-yogurt mixture. I don’t remember exactly how the idea of using chickpeas came to be, but, it is entirely possible that I thought this would be a good idea after seeing dried chickpeas in the pantry that I hadn’t made anything with for months.
I started with a combination of sliced cucumbers, egg omelet (preparation described in Bacon, lettuce, and tomato! Minustomatoplusegg.), cilantro, jicama, and carrots to create a mix of crunchy, crispy, and fluffy textures. Of the many variations of cold noodles that I’ve made, this set of veggies and egg by far ranks as my favorite. To prepare the chickpeas, I soaked them overnight and then boiled for two hours. Rather than create a soy-sauce dressing that I feared might just sink to the bottom of the bowl because the chickpeas wouldn’t soak up nearly as much liquid as egg, udon, or soba noodles can, I drew inspiration from tzatziki and created a thicker sauce by mixing a little soy sauce with tahini, sesame oil, and yogurt.
I found this cold-noodle-inspired salad to be quite substantial and refreshing! For the next iteration, to create a more tart flavor, I might try omitting the tahini and soy sauce and creating a cucumber-yogurt tzatziki.