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    Yakamein (New Orleans’ Ol’ Sober)

    Ya-Ka-Mein… Never heard of it? Well, you’re not alone. It is one of New Orleans’s best-kept secrets. Yakamein is not quite pho, not quite ramen and definitely not just soup. It’s not like anything you’ve ever had before. It’s a meal in a bowl. It’s full of warmth and BOLD, born as a mash up of Creole flavors with Asian soup noodles. So, like, my two favorite things… 🙂

    Two bowls, one white and one black, full of yakamein. This Creole soup consists of spaghetti noodles, beef, shrimp and eggs in a flavorful broth.

    Take a look into my yakamein bowls. What you see is some stewed beef, some shrimp, spaghetti noodles, beef based broth, boiled eggs, chopped green onions and a heavy hand of Creole seasoning.

    All this comes together to fuse Chinese cuisine with New Orleans flair. All in one bowl. Oh, and a little hot sauce on top never hurt anybody either!!

    Gumbo might be Louisiana’s official state dish, but if you grew up in New Orleans you know yakamein is their Official Sober Up Food. Known for its curative nature for hangovers after those famous late nights partying, it’s lovingly called “Ol’ Sober” and it’s always a crowd favorite.

    You don’t have to search too hard for that styrofoam take out cup that it normally comes in. Normally it’s accompanied by a fork for noodles and you just slurp it right from the cup. One can very easily find yakamein in local corner stores and festivals alike.

    This classic NoLa dish is always up for the challenge of remixing ingredients. Everyone makes it just a bit different but it hits the spot all the same with its complex yet addictive flavors.

    What is Yakamein?

    Close up of one of the bowls full of this New Orleans classic soup.

    Yakamein… Ya-Ka-Mein… Yock a mein… Yakamee. This dish is spelled in innumerable ways with phonetic similarities. However you say it, at its core, it’s a beef noodle soup with some Cantonese roots, but heavily infused with Creole spices. Chinese food was interpreted and evolved via the economic necessities in the Deep South.

    Yakamein has an incredible history behind. There are few tales of how this soup came to be a staple in the African American community. Some say that Chinese immigrants began arriving around 1815 to build the railroads between Houston and New Orleans, bringing with them aromatic flavors, cooking techniques and unfamiliar ingredients.

    Some say that African American soldiers serving in the Korean war brought the dish back with them. However, this tale is unlikely. Yakamein had its place in the city at least 20 years before the Korean war.

    It’s always fun to guess the origin of this soup, carrying the tales slurping over a bowl of yakamein.

    Here is the breakdown of New Orleans’ best-kept secret

    Close up of the other bowl of yakamein.
    1. Spaghetti – Chinese rail workers introduced Chinese noodle (or “mein”) dishes to the city. Chinese noodles were hard to come by and expensive, so yakamein calls for spaghetti instead.
    2. Broth – It’s all about the broth in the end that determines how good your yak is. It’s a lot like beef noodle soup flavor with soy sauce, sometimes with cinnamon and star anise, as well as Cajun or Creole spices. Sounds weird? You will be amazed how beautifully this fusion works.
    3. Protein – No meat is off the table when it comes to adding protein to yakamein. Apart from beef (brisket and stew meat is popular), pork, pork belly, Andouille sausage, oxtail, shrimp and lobster all find their way into this bowl at times.
    4. Toppings – Yakamein always comes with a boiled egg, along with other toppings like green onions. Some like it hot with a good spritz of hot sauce or some kind of hot chili sauce.

    Today we are trying Surf & Turf Yakamein, this is what you need

    • Chuck roast – I always believe boneless chuck roast is best when it comes to stews. I cut it into strips to braise a little faster, and it just looks better in a finished bowl
    • Shrimp – The more jumbo, the better.
    • Beef broth – You can use store bought beef broth or use beef base like Better than Bouillon.
    • Sauces – Soy sauce, worcestershire sauce and hot sauce.
    • Spices and seasonings – Creole seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, cayenne, thyme, black pepper.
    • Spaghetti
    • Boiled eggs – Hard or soft, according to the preference.
    • Green onions

    How to make Yakamein at home

    Before assembling my bowl, I cook different things individually.

    First, I marinate the beef strips with soy sauce and creole seasoning for at least half an hour, but if I have more time, I like to marinate them longer.

    Then, I heat oil in my soup pot and give the beef a quick sear. I could skip this step and start directly with the soup, but I find that browning the meat not only adds tons of flavor but also makes the final dish look great.

    Beef strips browning in a dutch oven.

    Once the beef is browned all over, I add in broth, or water along with beef base. Then, I stir in all the spices and seasonings, along with soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce.

    The broth in the dutch oven.

    I cook on high heat until it comes to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the meat is tender and soft. This process can take anywhere from an hour to two hours, depending on the type of cut of meat used. I make sure to stir the pot every now and then to ensure everything cooks evenly and nothing sticks to the bottom.

    I always make sure to taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. The goal is to have a broth that’s an umami Creole bomb, bursting with flavor.

    While the beef is simmering, I cook the spaghetti according to the package instructions.

    Also while the the beef cooks, I boil the eggs. Once water is a rolling boil, I gently place the eggs in the pot and cook 6-7 minutes for soft boiled eggs, 8-9 minutes for semi soft boiled, or 10-11 minutes for hard boiled eggs. You can also try our Korean marinated mayak eggs for extra flavors in this soup… so yum.

    Coming back to the soup base, as the cooking time nears the end, usually in the last 5 minutes or so, I stir in the shrimp. These shrimp are marinated in soy sauce and Creole seasoning, which adds an extra layer of flavor. Since shrimp cook very quickly, they only need a few minutes to cook through, so I make sure to add them towards the end of the cooking process.

    I chop green onions and keep my favorite hot sauces ready…

    That’s it. All that’s remaining is to assemble the bowl.

    In the biggest bowl I can find in my kitchen, I start by adding some noodles. Then, I ladle the flavorful broth over the noodles, making sure to include tender beef strips and shrimp. Then, I sprinkle on plenty of chopped green onions. Next I garnish the bowl with sliced eggs. Finally, for a touch of heat and extra flavor, I drizzle on some hot sauce.… and there you go. You are ready to Yak!! SLURP… This soup tastes as GOOD as it looks!

    Side view of our two bowls of yaka mein.

    Some Variations

    1. I feel this would be so good with brisket or pork belly. Even crawfish or lobster.
    2. Though spaghetti is traditional, you can try different noodles like udon or any other Chinese noodles.
    3. I never skimp on the seasonings. My homemade Creole seasoning is the best and is so easy to make.
    4. Try different toppings as well. They aren’t traditional, but will work excellent… baby bok choy, spinach, bean sprouts, napa cabbage… get creative!
    Another overhead shot of our two soup bowls.

    Try yakamein soon and you will be one of the very few who get acquainted with this very, very regional gem out of NoLa.

    GypsyPlate loves bringing all these regional delicacies right to your kitchen. These little known flavors need to be discovered. Be with us and you will get plenty. Subscribe and share so we keep bringing one cracking recipe after other.

    BTW… you can have an extra few shots of your favorite cocktail if you care. After all, you are cooking Ol’ Sober!! Don’t worry. Hangovers have no business anywhere near yakamein. Take care…

    Yakamein, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!

    The black bowl of yaka mein atop the Gypsy Plate.

    Try these other great Creole and Cajun recipes!
    Grillades & Grits
    Shrimp Remoulade
    Shrimp and Sausage Creole
    Jambalaya Pasta
    Red Beans and Rice
    Cajun Shrimp and Grits
    Cajun Shrimp Scampi

    Bowl of yakamein.

    Yakamein - New Orleans' Ol' Sober

    Yield: 4-6 servings
    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
    Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

    This Yakamein is a classic Creole fusion of flavors. It's famous in New Orleans for curing hangovers, but makes a delicious meal anytime!


    • 1.5 pounds chuck roast, cut into ½ inch strips
    • 2 Tbsp cooking oil
    • ½ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
    • 6 eggs
    • 8oz driedspaghetti noodles
    • 1/2 chopped scallions, for garnishing

    Beef marination

    • 2 tsp Creole seasoning
    • 1 Tbsp soy sauce

    Shrimp marination

    • 1 tsp Creole seasoning
    • 1 tsp soy sauce


    • 8 cups beef broth
    • 1 Tbsp Creole seasoning
    • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
    • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 tsp onion powder
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp dried oregano
    • 1 tsp dried thyme
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • ¼ tsp cayenne
    • ½ tsp black pepper


    1. Marinate beef in Creole seasoning and soy sauce for at least 30 minutes.
    2. Heat oil in a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add beef strips and sear on both sides until browned. Do not overcrowd, cook in batches if necessary.
    3. Add in beef broth along with all herbs, spices and sauces. Stir well and bring to a boil.
    4. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered, until beef is melt in your mouth tender, about 1-1.5 hours. Stir occasionally.
    5. While soup is cooking, cook spaghetti noodles according to directions on package.
    6. Also while soup is cooking, bring potful of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Gently place eggs in water with a spoon and reduce heat to medium. Cook according to your preferred doneness (see note 1). Remove from pot and immediately place in ice water bath to prevent further cooking.
    7. Once beef is getting tender, taste and adjust for seasoning.
    8. Marinate the shrimp. When beef is fully tender, add the shrimp to the pot and cook five minutes.
    9. In a large bowl, add desired amount of cooked noodles. Top with beef and shrimp. Ladle in broth. Garnish with halved eggs and chopped scallions. If desired, add in a splash of hot sauce.


    1. Cook eggs 6-7 minutes for soft boiled, 8-9 minutes for semi soft, or 10-11 minutes for hard boiled. For more flavor, try our marinated mayak eggs.
    2. Leftovers: Like with any soup, the flavors just get better as leftovers. Refrigerate broth mixture in an airtight container for up to three days (if omitting shrimp, you can store it for up to five days).
    3. You can keep the boiled eggs in the broth mixture. They will marinate nicely.
    4. I recommend storing the spaghetti noodles in a separate container and adding them to the broth when ready to eat. If you store them in the broth they can become too soft.

    Nutrition Information
    Yield 6 Serving Size 1
    Amount Per Serving Calories 520Total Fat 29gSaturated Fat 10gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 17gCholesterol 360mgSodium 3161mgCarbohydrates 16gFiber 1gSugar 1gProtein 49g

    Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.

    Did you make this recipe?

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    Picture of Alpana, blogger and recipe developer at GypsyPlate

    Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.

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      2 thoughts on “Yakamein (New Orleans’ Ol’ Sober)”

      • What a fascinating story behind this soup! As someone who was born and raised in the Philippines, I am not unfamiliar with Chinese-inspired noodle soups. We have our own version, called ‘mami.” I didn’t exactly make this recipe but used it as a springboard for using up leftover pot roast and spaghetti. I still did “marinate” the beef in tamari and Creole seasoning and used spaghetti noodles made with yellow peas (my husband and I avoid grain). Didn’t put shrimp because I’m allergic to shellfish. I’ve never used Creole seasoning before. The flavor of that broth, though! It was like eating the best mami I’ve ever had that was playing Jedi tricks with my mind! I slurped this delicious concoction two days in a row, no hangover needed. Five stars!

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