Mie Goreng and Yakisoba: Separated at Birth?

If you’ve found yourself in the Malaysia-Singapore-Indonesia cultural diaspora, you’ve undoubtedly come across mie goreng, the noodle stir-fry dish indicative to the region. Likewise, if you’ve visited Japan, you’ve almost certainly eaten soba noodles, and quite possibly in the form yakisoba, which are (you guessed it!) stir-fried noodles! How are these dishes similar and how are they different? If you like one, are you bound to like the other?

Your typical plate of yakisoba.

Your typical plate of yakisoba.

Mie goreng’s noodles are called yellow wheat noodles in English, and while they are similar to the wheat noodles that Japanese call “soba,” they are sometimes enriched with egg in the dough, and usually coated with flour. Soba noodles never have egg in them, and have a somewhat different yellow vibe than mie goreng’s noodles do.

A local plate of mie goreng.

A local plate of mie goreng.

When it comes to sauce, both call on the power of soy sauce, but in the case of mie goreng, it tends to be a sweet, dark, and thicker soy sauce that is mixed in. In addition to using some regular soy sauce (similar to that which you would use when eating sushi), yakisoba’s sauce enlists Worcestershire sauce, and depending on the region and personal tastes, tonkatsu sauce, oyster sauce, or a blend somewhere between the two.

When it comes to the vegetables and meats that are stir-fried into the noodles, there are some clear commonalities. Onion and cabbage are fixtures across both dishes, but the Southeast Asian variety tends to employ garlic and egg. Religious and dietary restrictions notwithstanding, both mie goreng and yakisoba may have chicken, beef, pork, or other meats such as chinese sausage mixed in. Muslims don’t eat pork, and Hindus don’t eat beef. Japanese tend to eat all meats.

With so many varieties to choose from both in the mie goreng and soba camps, it’s hard to say exactly what will appear when you order on the dishes, but it’s sure to be a plateful of Asian comfort food that warms the stomach and heart.

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