Yakisoba is all about summer. If an anime features a school festival, a summer festival (matsuri), food stalls, or a day at the beach, yakisoba is almost sure to pop up in some shape or form. Perhaps it is because this dish is a simple but satisfying meal that is easy to prepare – making it a perfect dish for say… a class of high school girls to make while running a cafe for a cultural festival, just like in K-On! (or, as part of Azusa’s crazy summer hallucination…)
Most recently, I saw yakisoba on episode 6 of Minami-Ke Tadaima. Predictably, it was featured in a day-at-the-beach episode, where the Minami sisters and their friends have fun in the sun swimming, playing volleyball, building sand castles, and… eating yakisoba!
Unfortunately, the beachside yakisoba Yuka has is not the most appetizing of dishes (as evident by her conflicted expression… her mouth smiles while her eyebrows remain skeptical!), though the girls attempt to make the best of the situation… until Chiaki straightforwardly states that the food is bad, thereby thoroughly ruining lunch…
But, not to worry! Our noodles won’t be rubbery or as unappealing as in Minami-Ke…. if made correctly, this dish will be filling and satisfying, reminding us all of those glorious summer days full of fireworks and swimsuits!
About the recipe:
Yakisoba is not too difficult to make, though there are many ingredients to cut and prepare. Leave plenty of time when you do this recipe! Easily customizable, other meats, such as Asian style barbecue pork, squid, or sliced fish cake, can be used, as well as additional vegetables. I advise to at least keep to the basics of the recipe: cabbage, carrots, onion, and noodles.
If you don’t eat meat, this dish can be easily made vegetarian. If you choose not to include meat in your dish, you may want to increase the amount of vegetables to compensate. Some other vegetables that could be used are spinach, bean sprouts, or green peppers.
The most important aspect of yakisoba is making sure that the noodles do not break. Overcooking the noodles or handling them roughly can cause the noodles to break into many small pieces. To avoid this situation, gently loosen the noodles in a small amount of water before mixing it in with the vegetables. Mix into the cooked vegetables soon after loosening the noodles so that they do not stick together again.
Yakisoba can be served both as a main, as well as a side dish. It also makes a nice accompaniment to a bento.
And, if plain old yakisoba just isn’t interesting enough for you, consider these variations that come straight from Japan:
- Omu-soba – Yakisoba wrapped up in an omelette, a la omu-rice.
- Yakisoba pan – stuff a hotdog bun with yakisoba, garnish with Japanese mayonnaise and beni shouga. Commonly found in convenience stores.
- Add yakisoba to the plain batter of okonomiyaki!
- Okonomiyaki served on top of yakisoba! (these two dishes are often eaten together…) Add a fried egg on top for extra points!
About the ingredients:
You can buy yakisoba noodles in many Asian grocery stores. Sometimes it is sold fresh, but often, it can be found frozen. The sauce can be bought in a squeeze bottle, or it may come with the noodles in the form of a powder. I usually use the powdered version, if only because it’s what I can get in my area. Either way, make sure you have both the noodles and the sauce on hand, and season the noodles to taste.
I usually use dried shiitake mushrooms when cooking. They’re easy to store, and last for a long time, unlike fresh mushrooms. To rehydrate dried mushrooms, break off the stems, and then simply submerge them in boiling water and cover. After about 15 minutes, they should be soft and ready to use. Squeeze the excess water from the mushrooms, and then use according to the recipe.
Beni shouga is picked ginger that is julienned (cut like short matchsticks) and is a bright red in color. It can be found in many Asian grocery stores, and comes in a jar, with the beni shouga submerged in a vinegary solution. Try to drain the liquid from the beni shouga before putting it on your yakisoba (doesn’t have to be dry, just not sopping wet).
Kizami nori is dried seaweed (nori) cut into thin strips. It is sold in a container, or you could always cut your own from a sheet of nori. If you cut it yourself, make sure to crisp up your nori on the stove or over an open flame (such as on a gas stove), and cut the nori thinly, a little thicker than the width of a matchstick, and about as long. Aonori, which is powdered seaweed, could also be used instead.
Makes 4 to 5 servings.
- 3 eggs
- 18 shrimp sliced in half horizontally
- ½ pound (2 pieces) boneless chicken thighs (optional)
- 2 tbsp teriyaki sauce
- 2 teaspoons cooking sake
- 1 pinch of dashi powder
- 1 teaspoon of corn starch
- 1 package (17 ounces) of fresh yakisoba noodles with sauce
- 3 cups packed cabbage, coarsely chopped
- 4 carrots julienned
- 6 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
- 1 white onion, sliced into strips
- 2 green onions, sliced into 1 inch pieces
- Toppings: Sesame seeds, kizami nori, beni shouga
1. Whip eggs in bowl and add pinch of salt and pepper. Heat vegetable oil in large saucepan. Add enough egg to cover pan in thin layer. Cook until egg has set, then flip and cook for additional 1 minute. Try not to brown the eggs. Remove from pan and repeat with remaining egg. Let cool and thinly cut into 3 inch long strips.
2. Heat vegetable oil in a wok on medium low heat and saute shrimp for 3 to 4 minutes. When cooked through, remove from wok and place in bowl.
3. Cut chicken into bite-sized (approximately 1 inch) pieces. In a medium-sized bowl combine chicken with 2 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce, 2 teaspoons of cooking sake, a pinch of dashi powder, and 1 teaspoon of corn starch. Mix together thoroughly and let marinade for 15 minutes. Heat vegetable oil in wok on medium heat and saute chicken until cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes. Top with splash of unagi sauce. Remove from wok and set aside.
4. Add remaining oil and fresh ginger. Saute for about 1 minute or until until fragrant. Add cabbage and carrots, and saute for an additional 8 to 10 minutes. Add green onions and mushrooms and saute for 2 to 3 minutes.
5. When the vegetables are almost done cooking, heat a pot filled with about an inch of water until hot. Add yakisoba noodles and gently loosen. Do not overcook; the purpose of this step is only to loosen the noodles. Drain from the water once loosened.
6. When vegetables are cooked and soft, add shrimp, chicken, and noodles. Sprinkle powdered sauce into the noodles until dissolved and evenly distributed, being careful not to break the noodles.
5. Serve yakisoba in a large bowl. Top with sliced egg, sesame seeds, beni shouga and kizami nori.