The most popular person at any Japanese street festival is the yakisoba guy. Standing at a small cart with a hot griddle, he wears a twisted hair band and holds two giant spatulas, one in each hand. With great energy and fanfare he stir- fries a heap of vegetables and pork with chukasoba noodles— the yellow, springy Chinese-style wheat noodles more commonly known as ramen. He ﬁnishes with a glug of the special bottled sauce that tastes like a spicier version of tonkatsu sauce, and customers walk toward him like zombies.
At home, however, the dish is best cooked one portion at a time. At Japanese grocery stores, chukasoba are sold in the refrigerated section in bags with sauce packets, and labeled “yakisoba.” I typically ignore the packets and instead use the tastier Otafuku brand yakisoba sauce. Why don’t I make my own? Well, then the stir-fry would be a chore (you wouldn’t make your own ketchup for a burger, would you?) rather than a quick lunch or perfect late- night snack.
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 Ounces pork belly, thinly sliced then cut into 3/4-inch pieces
- 1/2 Cup thinly sliced yellow onion
- 1/4 Cup carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch-long matchsticks
- 1 Cup roughly chopped (about 2 x 3/4-inch pieces) loosely packed white cabbage
- 1 5 1/2-ounce package yakisoba noodles (a heaping cup)
- 2 Tablespoons jarred yakisoba sauce, preferably the Otafuku brand
- 1 Tablespoon shredded beni shoga (red pickled ginger)
- 1 heaping Tablespoon bonito ﬂakes
- 1/2 Teaspoon aonori (powdered seaweed) or ﬁnely chopped nori seaweed sheets
Heat the oil in a medium wide nonstick or cast- iron skillet over high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the pork belly, onion, and carrot and cook, stirring frequently, for about 30 seconds. Add the cabbage and cook, stirring, until it wilts slightly and the onions are lightly browned at the edges, about 3 minutes.
Add the noodles and cook, tossing with tongs, until the noodles are hot through, about 3 minutes. As you toss, gently separate the strands. (If the noodles don’t separate easily, add a splash of water to the pan.) Add the sauce and continue to cook, tossing, until thoroughly coated, about 1 minute. Season with more sauce to taste, toss well, and transfer to a bowl. Top with the beni shoga, bonito ﬂakes, and aonori. Eat right away.