Friday, February 4, 2011

Yakisoba

Much like I had it in my mind that I just had to use the mini muffin tin to bake cookies, I also had it in my mind that yakisoba sounded really good and we had to make yakisoba.

Yakisoba is Japanese for fried noodles. Yaki = fry; soba = soba noodles. This was one of my favorite meals when I lived in Japan but no matter how many times I've tried to replicate it myself, I am never very successful. It's the sauce. It seems simple, but I can never achieve quite the right taste for my liking. Bottles of pre-made yakisoba sauce and packets of yakisoba seasoning have never tasted quiet right either. I'm convinced the best sauce will be from scratch, I just need to find the right combination of ingredients.

One of my friends was lucky enough to have a host mother who made amazing yakisoba. In Japan, it's sold at festivals along with other goodies like takoyaki (fried octopus in a meatball shape) and strawberries coated in a sugary red lollipop-like candy but it's easily crunched and I don't even remember other festival foods. I ate a lot of yakisoba!

I think SP being away for a week gave me too much free time to think - always a dangerous thing! I've also been scanning a lot of old photos, so my time in Japan was fresh in my mind. And the yakisoba bug bit me. So I hunted around and located my mini Japanese food cookbook and I searched online and finally settled on a yakisoba recipe from food.com.Monday night I gathered the ingredients and set about washing and chopping and shredding and mixing. Scallions for garnish, fresh grated ginger, mirin (rice wine for cooking), shoyu (soy sauce), noodles, sliced mushrooms, shredded carrots, thinly sliced green cabbage, and chopped onion. Instead of pork, we decided to have shrimp. SP bought fresh shrimp at Giant Eagle Market District. The first step was to cook the raw shrimp. Into the wok they went (with a little vegetable oil).The mirin and shoyu are mixed with some sugar:After the shrimp were cooked, we took them out of the pan and added the onions. Next we added the carrots, ginger, and cabbage, then the mushrooms, then the noodles and finally the sauce. We added the cooked shrimp at the end and left them in just long enough to heat them through.I didn't garnish mine with scallions. This was tasty! It was a little wetter than yakisoba should be, but we figured that was OK since there were leftovers for another meal and the additional moisture would help when re-heating the yakisoba. It's possible the mushrooms contributed a bit too much moisture. The recipe didn't call for mushrooms, we just decided they'd be a tasty addition.

SP did an excellent job cooking the shrimp. They were just cooked through and wonderfully tasty and moist. Sometimes it's tough to cook shrimp just right, especially in a stir fry like dish, and not have them get too tough and over-cooked and shrivel a bit. The sauce was pretty tasty, too. Definitely pretty close to what I remember and what I like. I'm looking forward to re-heating the yakisoba and seeing if it has more of a fried noodle 'texture' because while the first meal was tasty, it was too moist and not quite yakisoba like.

You can use wheat noodles, udon noodles (fatter than soba), or ramen noodles. We used ramen noodles but we have some wheat soba so next time we might try those.

For as tasty as this was, I think I still have a long journey ahead of me to find the perfect yakisoba recipe much like I am still searching for an Irish coffee as good as the one at Buena Vista in San Francisco.

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