Harusame salad (Japanese glass noodle salad) 春雨サラダ


Japanese glass noodle salad (harusame salad) is light, refreshing, low calorie and so flavorful, with a savory and tangy sesame soy vinaigrette.

Japanese glass noodle salad, or what we call harusame salad (春雨サラダ) in Japan, is known as a Chinese-style (中華風) salad due to the Chinese origin of glass noodles and the use of sesame oil in the salad dressing.

Here, you have tangles of slippery chewy noodles, crisp vegetables, and salty ham, all tossed in a tangy sesame soy vinaigrette. It’s quick and easy to put together; you’ll love the salad for its simplicity.

What Does Harusame Mean?
Harusame is the Japanese name for cellophane noodles or glass noodles. The Japanese character (kanji) for harusame is 春雨, which means spring (春) and rain (雨). Isn’t it such a poetic name for noodles?

I found that harusame came to Japan from China during the Kamakura period (1185-1333) as vegan food for monks (shojin ryori 精進料理). We’ve been using this ingredient for almost 800 years! What’s interesting is these noodles have a few different names in Chinese.

粉条 [fěntiáo] in China
粉絲 [fěnsī] especially in Beijing, China
冬粉 [dōngfěn] in Taiwan

In literal translations, the Chinese names for cellophane or glass noodles refers to thin or delicate ribbons or cold noodles. It’s very different from 春雨. After a bit more research, I learned that harusame’s kanji characters (春雨) reflect the noodles’ resemblance of a gentle spring rain. They sure look like spring showers after they are cooked, don’t they?

Unlike Chinese glass noodles that are commonly made of mung beans (緑豆), most Japanese glass noodles are made of both sweet potato and potato starch in Nara prefecture, and they are usually thicker than their Chinese counterparts.

Harusame Salad — Versatile Healthy Recipe
Besides glass noodles, harusame salad commonly uses three other main ingredients: julienned cucumbers, carrots and ham. Variations may include wakame seaweed, shredded egg omelette, tomatoes, bean sprouts and more.

You can easily customize the salad without the use of ham or eggs for a vegetarian or vegan version.  Shredded baked or grilled tofu is an easy way to sneak in some protein and substance. These glass noodles are made from water and starch, such as mung beans, yam and potato starch, so they are naturally gluten-free.

Depending on the ingredients, the texture, thickness, and cooking instruction of the glass noodles can be different. Make sure to follow the package’s instructions on how to prepare the noodles.

Tangy and Delicious Sesame Soy Vinaigrette
The dressing for this salad is usually made with soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar and sugar. It’s a common combination of dressings in Japanese cuisine. Tangy, salty, slightly sweet, this simple formula works incredibly well to liven up any salad.

I want to discuss sugar here. I sometimes receive questions from my readers asking if they can remove sugar completely from the Japanese recipe. I understand many of you (including myself) watch how much sugar you consume in your diet, so it’s an important topic I’d like to cover.

In Japanese cuisine and many other Asian cuisines, you will find that the basic principle of flavoring a dish often covers the “Five Tastes:” salty, sour, sweet, bitter and umami. This concept works as a guide in working with each ingredient and how they interact with each other in cooking.

With the use of salty and sour ingredients, such as soy sauce, miso and rice vinegar, sugar is added to balance out the salty and sour tastes and to improve the overall flavors, making the dish more palatable. The right amount of sweetness will help hit the note perfectly.

If you are concerned about the use of sugar, you can definitely use other healthier alternatives, such as honey, maple syrup or raw sugar to replace granulated sugar. As the majority of home cooks in the world use granulated sugar, I create my recipes using it.

I hope you give this harusame salad a try and find out the secret to balancing the “Five Tastes” in Japanese cooking. Also, you’ll be happy to know that the noodles do not stick together after being dressed in the vinaigrette, so you can prep the salad ahead for your next potluck or party.

Harusame Salad (Japanese Glass Noodle Salad)
Japanese glass noodle salad (harusame salad) is light, refreshing, low calorie and so flavorful, with a savory and tangy sesame soy vinaigrette.

Prep time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 5 mins
Chilling Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 55 mins
Servings: 4

4.2 oz harusame (glass noodles)
2 Tbsp dried wakame seaweed
1 Persian/Japanese cucumber
1/2 tsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt) (for veggies)
Three slices black forest ham (skip for vegetarian/vegan)
2 tsp toasted white sesame seeds

3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce (use gluten free soy sauce for gluten free)
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp sesame oil (roasted)
1 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc)
Kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
Freshly ground black pepper

Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, visit https://www.justonecookbook.com/ingredient-substitution-for-japanese-cooking/.

To read the recipe, visit https://www.justonecookbook.com/harusame-salad/.

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