It’s hot here in Tokyo, and the sweat-inducing humidity has the ability to envelop you like a shrinkwrap of damp heat. Normally, I’d have the air conditioning on full bore, or I’d hang up my chef coat and leave the cooking to others while I wait out the heat, but this year I’m saving up for a new kitchen. That means cutting back on luxuries such as A/C and dining out.
I came up with this ramen salad for lunch one day when the fridge turned up a few scraps from other recipes I’d been working on, along with a big golden tangle of fresh ramen noodles. Some loose lacinato kale leaves got shredded; limp dill was resurrected in a bowl of ice water; some partially dehydrated maitake mushrooms got tossed with olive oil, and crisped in a toaster oven; and it all got tossed together with a tangy creamy dressing made of yogurt, lemon juice and garlic.
Although the components of this ramen salad are eclectic, the overall flavor is decidedly Mediterranean with an appetite expanding balance of the five basic tastes(umami, salt, sweet, sour, & bitter). Texturewise and flavorwise there are fun things going on, like the crunchy green kale and herbaceous dill, the crisp maitake mushrooms that fill your mouth with meaty umami with every bite, and then of course there are the toothsome ramen noodles that are coated in a fragrant dressing that’s equal parts rich and refreshing.
While I made these using ramen noodles, other Japanese noodles like somen, soba or even udon could work well for this salad as they all cook fairly quickly and are delicious served chilled.
for roasted maitake
for yogurt dressing
- Split the maitake mushrooms up into clumps about the same size and put them in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly.
- Roast the mushrooms in a toaster oven set to broil until the edges of the mushrooms are browned and slightly crisp.
- Make the dressing by whisking together the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, salt, lemon zest, honey and black pepper.
- Prepare the kale by removing the tough center stem and slicing the leaves into 1/4-inch wide ribbons. Pluck the dill from its stems and add them to a bowl with the kale.
- Boil the ramen according to the package directions. Drain and run the noodles under cold water until they are chilled.
- Add the cooked ramen to the kale and pour over the dressing. Toss to coat evenly and serve, topped with the roasted maitake mushrooms.