Yakisoba is a classic Japanese stir fry noodles dish with pork and vegetables, and it’s seasoned with a sweet & savory sauce similar to Worcestershire sauce.
Yakisoba (焼きそば) or Japanese stir fry noodles started to appear in the 1930s as So-su (= Sauce) Yakisoba (ソース焼きそば), and it was a popular children’s snack at the mom-and-pop candy stores (dagashi-ya 駄菓子屋 in Japanese) in late ’50s.
Since then Yakisoba has been cooked and enjoyed at home and Teishoku-ya (Japanese diners), and became an icon for Japanese street food. As it is easy to set up an iron plate Teppan (鉄板) and find ingredients to make this recipe, Yakisoba food stalls are popular at school events, festivals, snack shops, etc.
Watch How To Make Yakisoba
Click here to watch on YouTube Channel
Childhood Memory & Variety of Yakisoba
When I was growing up in Japan, yakisoba often appeared as our weekend lunch menu. My mom and I prep the ingredients and my family used to gather around the Japanese hot plate (portable indoor griddle) and cook Yakisoba together. It was my dad’s favorite weekend lunch. It can a dinner dish as well, but personally, I always associate Yakisoba as a weekend lunch menu.
My mom often changes up ingredients used in the recipe. Instead of pork belly slices, she sometimes used Japanese sausages and ground pork, and my favorite was the combination of ground pork and squid/calamari. My mom also put Chinese chives and bean sprouts for her yakisoba, but I don’t always add them as they are not my “staple” in my kitchen.
Yakisoba is very easy to make, and you can add almost any ingredients to make it your style. Try it with seafood, or a simple vegetarian style is fabulous for Meatless Mondays!
3 Tips for Delicious Yakisoba
1. Use a Big Cookware
It’s important that you have a big cooking space like a griddle or big wok so that your ingredients have contact with the hot surface. Nice char will add fantastic flavors and give it more “street food” character.
To do that, don’t put too many ingredients. You don’t want to steam up the noodles. You need to let the steam escape, so the noodles are not wet, and preferably make it dry and crispy as possible. If you prefer super crispy noodles (I prefer my noodles have some moisture), fry the noodles first and transfer them out and start cooking ingredients. That way, you don’t have to cook the noodles later on, and the noodles will still stay crispy.
2. Stir Fry Hard Vegetables First
I like my vegetables to have some nice crisp texture and not all wilted. It is important to start to stir-frying hard vegetables that take takes longer to cook first, before adding the softer ingredients. It’s my pet peeve to watch cooking shows, and see who put all the ingredients all at once into the pan. I believe each ingredient has a preferred cooking time for the best taste. 😉
3. Loosen Up Noodles First
I recommend loosening up the strands of noodles before adding into the stir-fried ingredients. If you don’t, you will most likely break up the noodles into small pieces on the griddle or wok.
What I recommend is to loosen up noodles with your hands and getting rid of oil under warm water. Drain well, and then toss with the stir fry vegetables. Noodles will still have enough moisture, but won’t be soggy due to excess water.
Where To Get Yakisoba Noodles & Yakisoba Sauce
Many of you know “soba” means buckwheat noodles, and that’s correct. However, the word soba in Japanese can also be used to describe noodles of any type. Yakisoba noodles are called Mushi Chukamen (蒸し中華麺 or Steamed Chinese-style noodles). They are made of wheat flour, kansui, and water. Even though the color of noodles is yellow-ish, they are not egg noodles, and the color is the result of using kansui. Yakisoba noodles are steamed and packaged, so they’re ready for a quick reheat. The texture of these noodles is similar to ramen noodles.
Two popular yakisoba noodle brands Myojo (明星) and Maruchan (マルちゃん), both come with three packets of yakisoba noodles in each package. The noodles are already steamed, coated with oil, and packed tightly in each packet. I recommend using the Myojo brand (see the picture above). Maruchan, if frozen, tends to break into pieces when defrosted. In Japan, Yakisoba noodles are never sold frozen, but these noodles don’t last too long, so here in the US, they may be sold frozen.
You can purchase them in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese grocery stores, and they are either in the refrigerated or freezer section.
The popular Otafuku brand offers Yakisoba sauce but I actually like making yakisoba sauce from scratch (made with common condiments), so I can slightly adjust the sauce each time to make my Yakisoba taste different.
My kids told me they prefer the sauce to be slightly sweeter than my recipe below, but I’ll leave that up to you and feel free to add more sugar.
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
Yakisoba (Japanese Stir Fry Noodles)
- ½ onion
- 1 carrot
- 3 shiitake mushrooms
- 2 green onions/scallions
- 4 cabbage leaves
- ¾ lb sliced pork belly (or your choice of meat/seafood/mushrooms/veggies)
- 2 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc)
- freshly ground black pepper
- 3 servings yakisoba noodles (one package comes with 3 servings, 16-17 oz or 454-480 g pre-steamed noodles)
- 4-6 Tbsp yakisoba sauce (recipe below)
Yakisoba Sauce (Makes ½ cup, 120 ml)
- 4 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (Japanese brand "Bulldog" Worcestershire sauce (Usuta-so-su, ウスターソース) is milder and less sour than Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce. If you use non-Japanese brand, add more sugar)
- 4 tsp oyster sauce (if you're allergic to shellfish, or if you're vegetarian, use LEE KUM KEE Vegetarian Stir-Fry Sauce)
- 4 tsp ketchup
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp sugar (add more sugar, if needed)
- Gather all the ingredients.
To Make Yakisoba Sauce
- Whisk all the ingredients for Yakisoba sauce. It's important to taste the sauce and see if you need to add more sugar. For example, some ketchup is sweeter than others while some Worcestershire sauce is less sour than others. Set it aside.
To Make Yakisoba
- Slice the onion, cut the carrot into julienned strips, and slice the shiitake mushrooms.
- Chop the green onion into 2 inch (5 cm) pieces, cut the cabbage into small bite pieces and cut the meat into 1 inch pieces.
- In a skillet or wok, heat oil on medium high heat. Cook the meat until no longer pink.
- Add the onion and carrot and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the cabbage and cook until almost tender.
- Lastly, add the green onion and shiitake mushrooms and cook for 1 minute. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
- Transfer the yakisoba noodles to a sieve and quickly run hot water over yakisoba noodles. Separate the noodles with your hands. Add the noodles to the skillet/wok, and lower the heat to medium. It’s best to use tongs to combine the noodles with ingredients. Keep an eye on the noodles as they may stick to the skillet/wok.
- Add Yakisoba Sauce, and adjust the amount of sauce to use based on your other ingredients. Using a pair of tongs, mix all together and transfer to plates. Garnish with dried green seaweed and pickled red ginger. Serve immediately.
Update: The post was originally published on April 6, 2011. It’s been updated with new images and content.