Soba refers to thin noodles, more brown than white, that are made from buckwheat. The noodles often find their way into delicately flavored soups, or can be simply boiled then dipped into a soy sauce-based sauce. Yakisoba, however, takes soba down another road. It’s a pan fried, meat and vegetables loaded, highly seasoned road. Buckle up.
Fresh soba noodles are pan-fried until done, then placed aside for later use. Then, into the pan goes some bite-sized pieces of thinly sliced, boneless pork, followed shortly after by carrot, onion, then finally, shredded cabbage. Back into the pan goes the noodles, with but a minute or two being all it taking to perform an initial flavor meld before the sauce is added. This sauce, known simply as “sauce” in Japanese, is a sweetened Worcestershire type creation. Plated, on top of the whole shebang is sprinkled some aonori, which is a special type of nori (dried seaweed). Yakisoba definitely qualifies for additional firing up using shichimi, or 7-spice chili powder, which should be at the ready wherever yakisoba is served.
Described here is the standard yakisoba recipe, but beef can easily be substituted for pork, and other vegetables can also be added. Some people have even been known to toss a little katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) on top, dressing the noodle dish as if it where okonomiyaki (the Japanese savory pancake).
Anytime is a good time for yakisoba. You’ll find it everywhere from street stalls at festivals, to izakayas (these roughly equate to Japanese-style tapas restaurants), to even baseball games! It’s got the carbs to qualify for shime, which is the practice of eating a noodle or rice dish to end a meal. It also had been known to end many a night of drinking, or even something to eat the day after a big night of drinking. For those who love yakisoba — and there are quite a few — there really is no limit as to when you can eat it!
Looking to try Yakisoba in Tokyo?
Japan Gourmetpedia recommends using our sister site, Tokyo Dinner Ticket, to find the perfect restaurant.