All of us remember the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and most of us are aware of the distatrous aftermath that the region still hasn’t recovered from. Quite a few members of my extended family were displaced from New Orleans during that time and spent the remainder of the year living with us at my grandparents’ North Carolina home. It was during this time is when I first heard of the glorious cultural hybrid concoction that is Yakamein – also called Yaka Meat Soup, Yaka Meat Stew, and Ol’ Sober.
Yakamein is a beef noodle soup that feels similar to ramen, but has obvious Cajun and Creole infuences. I can’t remember why it was brought up, but one of the cousins told me about it and I have always been a huge fan of beefy soups and stews so I made mental note. It took me like a decade to finally make some (I wasn’t really cooking like that, yet, I was pregnant with my second kid at the time), and I don’t do it very often but it is always a great treat when I do.
Feel free to jump to the full recipe, but here are useful notes about the ingredients you will need to make this Yakamein recipe:
- Chuck roast: I like to have exact control over the amount of fat on my beef, especially when I’m eating it with a spoon, so I prefer to buy whole roasts and cut them into 1″ cubes myself (this is always cheaper, too). Feel free to pick up a package of stew beef for convenience.
- The Holy Trinity (bell-pepper, onion, celery): When doing a bit of research for this post I noticed that most Yakamein recipes don’t call for any fresh vegetables but maybe celery. I can’t even think about food from Louisiana without getting excited to chop up this trio, so of course, I added it in to add even more cajun flavor to the broth.
- Garlic: Do I need to explain?
- Spaghetti: As far as I know, traditionally Yakamein is served over spaghetti noodles, but dry rice noodles are used in some places too. Dry rice noodles aren’t as easy to find as spaghetti for me so I’ve never actually tried them in this.
- Beef bouillon: The chuck roast alone won’t give the broth enough flavor – you’d need bones and marrow for that – so we use the bouillon to move it along.
- Water: For both the making the beef broth and boiling the pasta noodles.
- Vegetable oil: Just enough for searing and sauteeing.
- Soy sauce, Tabasco, browning sauce: The soy sauce and a few dashes of Tabasco for flavor. Th browning is for color and optional.
- Cajun seasoning: Creole seasoning would work too. Yes, there is a difference.
- Boiled eggs, scallions, parsley: For garnish.
How to Make Yakamein
Full instructions are included in the recipe below, but here is a basic overview of what you’ll need to do, along with some important tidbits to help you make the most of this Yakamein recipe:
- Season your meat. Add the cubed chuck roast to a large bowl. Sprinkle the garlic powder, soy sauce, and one half tablespoon of the cajun seasoning over the meat, then toss to coat and season each piece thoroughly.
- Sear your meat. Grab your largest stockpot and place it on a burner over medium-high. Drizzle in just enough vegetable oil to lightly coat the cooking surface and let it heat for 1 minute, until the oil starts shimmering. Sear the chuck roast in batches, making sure not to crowd the pan because that will cause the meat to steam and turn grey, not get the beautiful char we’re after. When all the meat has been seared set it aside and add the remaining oil to the pot.
- Soften the aromatics. Stir in the celery, bell pepper, and onion. Sprinkle over a pinch of kosher salt and cook over medium-high until they begin to soften and the onion starts to deepen in color, about 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic. Stir it in and let the garlic cook for another couple of minutes.
- Make the broth. Bring 4 cups of the water to a boil and whisk in all of the beef bouillon paste. Set this aside and return your attention to the pot on the stove.
- Build the Yakamein. Return the meat back to the pan, along with the Tabasco, browning, cajun seasoning, the beef broth you made earlier and the water. Stir well to get everything combined, then taste and adjust for salt to your tastes.
- Simmer the Yakamein. Increase the heat back to medium high and bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. The soup should be simmering gently – increase the heat a tad if it’s not – when you put the lid on. Let the soup cook for 3 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.
- Cook the spaghetti. Once the soup is almost done, prepare your spaghetti noodles according to package directions. Always salt the water even if the box doesn’t tell you to!
- Serve it up. Add some of the drained cooked spaghetti noodles to a bowl and ladle the soup broth into the bowl until they’re submerged, then spoon on a healthy amount of meat (aromatics too, if you like) on top, add the boiled egg and sprinkle on some scallions and parsley. Drip on some more hot sauce if you like, and dassit!
Other Options with Similar Flavors
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