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 that you’d love the salad for its simplicity.
What Does Harusame Mean?
Harusame is the Japanese name for cellophane noodles or glass noodles. Japanese character kanji for Harusame is 春雨, which means spring (春) and rain (雨). Such a poetic name for noodles, isn’t it?
I also found that Harusame came to Japan from China during the Kamakura period (1185-1333) as a vegan food for monks (Shojin Ryori 精進料理), and we’ve been using this ingredient for almost 800 years! What’s interesting is this noodle has 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 refer to thin or delicate ribbons or cold noodles. Very different from 春雨. After a little bit more research, I learned that Harusame 春雨 was named in kanji character by the Japanese because the noodles look like 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 the Chinese counterparts.
Harusame Salad – Versatile Healthy Recipe
Besides glass noodles, Harusame Salad commonly uses 3 other main ingredients: julienned cucumbers, carrots, and ham. Variations may include wakame seaweed, shredded egg omelette, tomatoes, bean sprout, 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 bean, 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 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 we consume in our 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 ‘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 concern 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 ‘Five Tastes’ in Japanese cooking. Also, you’d be happy to know that the noodles do not get stick together after being dressed in the vinaigrette, so you can prep the salad ahead for your next potluck and home party.
Harusame Salad (Japanese Glass Noodle Salad)
- Gather all the ingredients first.
- Follow the packaging instructions to rehydrate harusame noodles. My package instruction is to boil harusame noodles for 4 minutes. Rinse under cold water to remove the starch. Drain well so the dressing won’t be diluted. Cut into smaller lengths if you like.
- Rehydrate wakame in water for 15 minutes. Squeeze the water out and set aside.
- Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and thinly slice diagonally.
- Cut carrot into thin slabs and cut into julienne strips.
- Sprinkle kosher salt over the cucumber and carrot and coat well. Set aside for 5 minutes. Then quickly rinse off the salt and squeeze water out. Set aside.
- Cut the black forest ham into julienne strips. Now all the ingredients are ready.
- In a medium bowl, combine the dressing ingredients and whisk all together.
- In a large bowl, add harusame noodles, vegetables, ham, wakame, and sesame seeds, and pour the dressing. Toss all together. Chill the salad in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.