What is yakisoba?
Yakisoba (pronounced ‘yak-kie-soh-BA’) literally means grilled (yaki) buckwheat noodles (soba), although the noodles in yakisoba are confusingly not made of buckwheat, but of wheat flour and egg. Yakisoba is a stir-fried dish where slices of (pork) meat or shrimp and mixed vegetables – often cabbage, beansprouts, carrots, mushrooms and spring onions – are cooked together with boiled noodles in a special yakisoba sauce.
The dish is the Japanese version of Chinese chow mein – noodles cooked in soy sauce. The Japanese use a special thick, sweet yakisoba sauce, which is a mixture of Japanese Worcester sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar and cloves. The fixed elements of yakisoba are the noodles and the sauce. Everything else is interchangeable. Other vegetables work and if you don’t like pork, you can add shrimps, chicken, beef or tofu.
In Japan, yakisoba is a festival food; as soon as a large outdoor event is held, yakisoba stalls pop up alongside. The dish is prepared on large hot plates and each portion is served in a tray. Another festival dish is yakisoba pan, a hot dog-like sandwich filled with yakisoba.
Did you know?
In Japanese supermarkets they sell an instant version of yakisoba. The pack contains steamed noodles, ready to stir fry, and a powdered version of the yakisoba sosu or sauce.
How to make yakisoba?
Yakisoba is quick to prepare. Cook fresh or dried noodles, then rinse them under cold water. Mix with a little sesame oil to prevent them sticking together. Stir-fry the meat (pork belly is popular) and add the vegetables to the pan at the end so that they retain their crunchiness but all moisture evaporates. When the vegetables are ready, add the noodles and the sauce. As soon as the noodles are warmed up, it’s ready.
How to eat
To serve, yakisoba is sprinkled with typical Japanese toppings; aonori, a green dried seaweed, and benishoga, red pickled ginger strips. Eat with your yakisoba with chopsticks.