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… 🙂
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.
So let’s dig into New Orleans’ best kept secret… What is Yakamein?
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 – We always believe boneless chuck roast is best when it comes to stews. We 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.
- Boiled eggs – Hard or soft, according to the preference.
- Green onions
How to make Yakamein at home
Before assembling your bowl, you need to cook different things individually.
Marinate the beef strips with soy sauce and creole seasoning for at least half an hour, more if you can spare some time.
Heat oil in your soup pot and give a quick sear to the beef. You can avoid this step and start directly with soup. But browning the meat not only adds tons of flavor, but would look great in the final dish.
Once brown all over, add in broth or water along with beef base. Stir in all spices and seasonings, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce.
Cook on high heat till it comes to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer till the meat is tender and soft. It will take anywhere from an hour to two hours, depending upon the type of cut you use. Every now and then stir the pot… 🙂
Taste and adjust for the seasonings. Your broth should be an umami Creole bomb. Towards the last 5 minutes, stir in shrimp, which are marinated in soy sauce and Creole seasoning. They will cook very fast.
Cook the spaghetti according to the package instructions.
Boil the eggs. Once your water is a rolling boil, 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.
Chop green onions and keep your hot sauces ready…
That’s it. All that’s remaining is to assemble the bowl.
Take the biggest bowl you can find in your kitchen. First put some noodles in the bowl. Ladle the broth over the noodles along with tender beef strips and shrimp. Sprinkle on plenty of chopped green onions, garnish with sliced eggs and hot sauce… and there you go. You are ready to Yak!! SLURP… This soup tastes as GOOD as it looks!
Play with your yakamein
- I feel this would be so good with brisket or pork belly. Even crawfish or lobster.
- Though spaghetti is traditional, you can try different noodles like udon or any other Chinese noodles.
- One tip is never skimp on the seasonings. Our homemade Creole seasoning is the best and is so easy to make.
- Try different toppings as well. They aren’t traditional, but will work excellent… baby bok choy, spinach, bean sprouts, napa cabbage… get creative!
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).
You can keep the boiled eggs in the broth mixture. They will marinate nicely.
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.
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 my Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
- 1.5 lb chuck roast, cut into 1/2 inch strips
- 2 Tbsp cooking oil
- 1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 6 eggs
- 8 oz spaghetti noodles
- 1/2 chopped scallions, for garnishing
- 2 tsp Creole seasoning
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 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
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- Marinate beef in Creole seasoning and soy sauce for at least 30 minutes.
- 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.
- Add in beef broth along with all herbs, spices and sauces. Stir well and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered, until beef is melt in your mouth tender, about 1-1.5 hours. Stir occasionally.
- While soup is cooking, cook spaghetti noodles according to directions on package.
- 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.
- Once beef is getting tender, taste and adjust for seasoning.
- Marinate the shrimp. When beef is fully tender, add the shrimp to the pot and cook five minutes.
- 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.
- 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.
Nutrition InformationYield 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.
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