Ya Ka Mein
By Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime
Ya Ka Mein (sounds like “Yock-a-Mee”) is a beefy noodle soup made in New Orleans, among other places, which has entwined itself permanently with Cajun cuisine. It is also found around the Portsmouth area of Virginia. While some may go back and forth between the origins of that, I have also seen claim to it from Northern China, although the Chinese version, while made similarly, usually has chicken instead of beef. In China, the name itself might imply “one cup of noodles” (as it is usually served in cups in NOLA, with “yat” implying “one” in Cantonese and “mein” referring mostly to meehoon noodles.
It is a poor man’s food, to be certain, made mostly of a simple stock with beef or other meats, and spaghetti topped with an egg. Sometimes called “Old Sober”, it is a hair of the dog type of food suitable for restoring the souls of heavy drinkers following long nights in the French Quarter of NOLA, which is a party town. For those looking to have a bite after being out and the long evening hours drew closer to morning, a simple hot soup topped with an egg, might seem a weird sort of breakfast, but it could certainly help get you back on your feet. Or so I suspect at least help ward off a hangover by getting a person a bit hydrated again.
You can have a peek at the ingredients list and see that it possibly is often made in a kitchen not well stocked. Maybe the ingredients seem odd, but it does work in the right proportions. And all the flavors combine to lie in the mists between NOLA and a never ending hole that leads to China, perhaps in the middle of the Earth itself. The best of both worlds. How those worlds came together in this fusion cuisine may never be known, as it has long been part of the local cuisine. Many Asian peoples have settled in the south, perhaps for the weather or proximity to the gulf coast.
This is an easy soup to adapt to whatever you might have on hand, such as leftover meats or vegetables if you like. Its humble nature makes it suitable for such provision. With both Fat Tuesday and Chinese New Year being this week, I hope that it is something you can enjoy as much as I have had in sharing this with the #SoupSwappers group, which is sharing Cajun Soups today. While not entirely what one usually suspects when thinking of Cajun soup, it is very very NOLA.
Ya Ka Mein
- 1-1/2 pounds beef chuckeye steak, cubed
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 teaspoons Cajun spice
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 6 cups hot water
- 2 tablespoons beef base (bouillon paste)
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 pound spaghetti, cooked and drained
- 4-6 hard-cooked eggs
- 3-4 scallions, sliced
- sriracha sauce or tabasco or other hot sauce (optional)
- Brown beef, onion and garlic in oil with Cajun spice and black pepper.
- Place in crock of slow cooker with water, beef base, ketchup, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and stir.
- Cover and cook on low for six hours, or until beef is very tender.
- Place cooked noodles in bowls and top with beef soup mixture and a sliced hard-cooked egg, a few sliced scallions and hot sauce as desired.
From the kitchen of palatablepastime.com
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