Day 12: Yakisoba
For a dish that seems quite simple, the idea of yakisoba can be quite complicated. Firstly, although it has soba in its name, it’s not actually made from those noodles. It’s made from something closer to the flour-based ramen noodles which came originally from China. And that leads to the next tricky thing – although it is seen as a Japanese dish, it is really just an imitation of the Chinese fried noodles called ‘chow mein’.
The simplest way to think of yakisoba is as fried noodles. The noodles, along with small chunks of pork and vegetables are stir cooked with a sauce similar to a sweet Worcestershire. The most common vegetables used are cabbage, onions and carrot. It’s then served on a plate with some garnishes like seaweed powder, pickled ginger and fish flakes.
Generally yakisoba is seen as a quick and cheap dish in Japan. It’s not for gourmet restaurants or a nice dinner out – it’s to grab while you’re hungry but in a rush. It’s much more common at lunch than other times of the day and can be cooked quickly when needed.
Sometimes it can be eaten as a side dish to accompany a more flavoursome or sophisticated meal. The Japanese have also created an easy way to eat yakisoba on the run, by putting it in a bun with toppings of ginger and mayonnaise.
As is the intention, I had a quick meal of yakisoba in the historic town of Nikko on my way to the train station. It only took a few minutes to appear and about the same amount of time to eat. It cost 500 yen (US$5.05) and didn’t taste particularly special but did the job of filling me up.
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