The ExPat Returneth

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Yaki Soba: the Ultimate Festival Food to Eat at Home

Yakisoba -- ramen style noodles stir fried with vegetables and meat -- are one of the most common foods found at festivals in Japan. They're also a cheap snack or meal at the food court counters in department stores and supermarkets. It's also easy to make at home, and although the festival/food court variety can be of a dubious nutritional nature, you can make a healthy version as easy or as complicated as fits your cooking style.
Festival cook frying up meat & veggies

There are instant varieties of yakisoba in both dried and frozen/refrigerator sections. The instant yakisoba is your basic cup o' noodle type bought for 99 cents or thereabouts. You can add veggies and meat for a quickie meal that gets the job done, although not well. However, the kind you can find in the freezer section of Asian supermarkets are pretty good and commonly eaten in Japan. Defrost them in the fridge and you have fresh noodles that can be cooked with a little water with a seasoning packet for the sauce. Saute veggies and thin slices of meat and you have another quickie meal that's much better than the instant noodles.
One type of Nama "Fresh" noodle
found in fridge or freezer sections at Asian markets

That's the kind of "kids meal" I make when the girls and I are eating alone. Super quick, easy, and a child (and grownup) pleaser.

Another version is to buy dried noodles or use fresh soba noodles if you can get them. I can even buy dried "chuka soba" noodles at my local Kroger, which is a good and healthier substitute than real ramen noodles. Real ramen noodles are fried before drying (which is why they taste so delicious). In a pinch you could use thin spaghetti.
Dried ramen noodles:
Chuka Soba is not buckwheat "soba" noodles!
Note the yellow/white color
Boil the noodles according to package directions. Chuka soba and ramen will cook fast -- 3 to 5 minutes -- so I cook my veggies and meat while the water is coming to a boil. You have a choice for the sauce -- what makes yakisoba taste like yakisoba -- buy it premixed or make it yourself. The bottled sauce is a great shortcut. You just squirt it on the noodles mixture for a quick cook. It's a specialty item though, so you'd have to look for it in the Japanese sauce section of an Asian supermarket.
A popular brand of Yakisoba sauce.
This bottle is from Japan, hence the Japanse script.
Behind it is an American-version bottle for Okonomiyaki sauce just to give you
an idea of what the American version of would look like.
Yakisoba (cooked noodles) (serves 3-4)
1 T vegetable oil (divided)
1 chuka soba package of noodles
8 oz of thinly sliced meat; traditionally pork or uncured bacon but you can use chicken, shrimp, pork rib, bacon, or sirloin. I've seen recipes that use hamburger although I've never tried it. Seems kind of weird to have crumbled meat, but whatever floats your boat.
About 2 -3 cups of chopped veggies: 1-2 c. sliced cabbage is standard; onion; peppers; carrots; bean sprouts. Scallions, eggplant, zucchini, and mushrooms will work. Any veg that holds up with sautéing and doesn't take too long to cook. You can also add finely chopped garlic, but don't let it scorch.
salt and pepper
4-6 Tbs of yakisoba sauce (to your own taste)

Traditionally it's served with pinkish-red pickled ginger (beni shoga) and ao-nori (powdery dried seaweed) but whatevs.

Homemade Yakisoba sauce:

3 Tb oyster sauce
1 t soy sauce
1 t sugar
1 t sesame oil
fresh pepper

If you're using dried noodles, set the water to boil and just before it boils, heat 1/2 T oil in a large skillet (altho this would be the time to pull out that wok you got in 1989). Stir fry your meat and sprinkle with salt and pepper; remove just before cooked through to prevent overcooking. Add additional 1/2 T oil if needed (depending on your meat). Cook your veggies until al dente or as you like, but don't let them get too soft. Add cabbage last. 

Get your noodles boiling while the veggies are cooking. Drain them and add to the veggies. Add your meat back in. Add the yakisoba sauce by taste. Stir and flip everything around so it's covered in sauce and hot.

You're done. 
Quick and dirty, my favorite kind of recipe.
My child can cook yakisoba!
Send me your favorite Quick & Dirty recipes! I love to try new ones and would love to include yours!


  1. This sounds so good. I just need to find oyster sauce that is gluten free. mm

    1. Hey Wren! It's yummy. I tried a google search on substitutes for oyster sauce. Here's one that offers a few alternatives:

      And I googled gluten free oyster sauce. There were a few, but here's one:

      Hope that helps!

  2. Yum. I'm a noodle freak and prefer it over rice. This is a great way to use up veggie remnants and adding oyster sauce and sesame oil makes almost anything taste like heaven.