Yakisoba, literally meaning fried noodles, is the epitome of Japanese junk food. It brings back wonderful memories for me, such as frying up a giant flat pan of them with large slabs of pork on the gorgeous beaches of Okinawa, or going to summer festivals wearing a yukata, watching fireworks while eating a polystyrene box full of the greasy things.
As such, Mr Jax is currently sitting next to me looking at the photos saying “Choose another picture! That doesn’t look like yakisoba!” (even though he requested and shoved them in his face just yesterday.) While living in Japan, they were the easiest food I could make - buy a packet of pre-cut yakisoba veggies, noodles, a bit of pork and a bottle of sauce and chuck it in a pan until done.
Here, it’s slightly more difficult. The main reason being that the ingredients just haven’t spread here yet. I was going to attempt my own yakisoba sauce, but then Mr Jax surprised me with a bottle for my birthday. He found it at Johannesburg’s Yamato restaurant. It cost a whopping R60, but I guess Woolies’ ‘wok sauce’ is roughly the same. So if you can’t get to Yamato, or just aren’t willing to pay that much, I will definitely try to make my own sauce in the near future.
The other thing you need is the right noodles. This is somewhat easier. I like using the pictured “Kyushu Ramen” noodles - they’re the most similar to what I used in Japan. (You can get them at any Oriental store - they cost around R20 and have enough in them for 5-6 large servings.) You could also grab a few packets of instant ramen (or probably even 2-Minute Noodles) and cook those up without adding the flavourings.
|Left: Otafuku Yakisoba sauce from Yamato in Joburg.|
Right: Kyushu Ramen noodles
Then, the meat... in Japan most of the pork and beef is sliced very thinly for use in dishes such as this, sukiyaki, yakiniku, etc. This doesn’t happen in SA. You ideally want some boneless pork belly or shoulder sliced as thinly as bacon (in fact, I should really try it with bacon!) I challenged my butcher to do it, but the thinnest he could get was 3-4mm, and I had to remove all the bones afterwards. It still worked, though.
Once you’ve got all those, this meal is super easy, and completely worth the effort of finding the above! I’ve cut some sauce and added more vegetables, making it much healthier than your standard Japanese version. This is yet another case where experimentation will reward you. Try any and all vegetables, and it’s great with beef too.
200g thinly-sliced pork shoulder/belly
1 onion, sliced
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced or julienned
1/2 large cabbage, roughly cut
1/2 red pepper, sliced
Yakisoba/ramen noodles (3 small packets from the Kyushu Ramen type bag)
- On a medium-high heat, heat a small amount of oil in a large wok (or VERY large pan) and cook the onion until softened.
- Throw in the pork and brown. You can add just a little sauce at this stage to flavour the pork.
- Turn the heat down to medium and add the carrots. Add just a little water to help steam and soften the carrots.
- After about 5 minutes, add the cabbage and red pepper. Cook until the cabbage starts to go soft, stirring constantly.
- Add the noodles (if using the ones suggested, you’ll have to break them up a bit and add a little water.) Mix them in and then start adding your sauce, a little at a time.
- Keep adding the sauce while mixing. Taste a noodle or two every so often to see if you like it. I use about a quarter of the bottle - some people like the flavour stronger, some weaker.
- Once it’s the flavour you like, remove from heat and serve immediately. Mr Jax likes to add mayo on top, and many people enjoy it topped with a soft fried egg. I personally like it shoved into my face as fast as my chopsticks can carry it.