There are a couple of influences on this Japanese stir-fry. The first is Chinese: the dish emulates Chinese-style stir-fries and uses yellow wheat-based ramen noodles either containing egg or colouring. Japanese also refer to the ramen noodle as Chuka soba meaning Chinese noodles. The second is Western: at the heart of a yaki soba is yaki soba sauce, which is very similar to tonkatsu sauce by the ever-mentioned brand, ‘Bulldog’. The sauce is essentially a sweet, thick, fruity Worcester sauce and has become a staple in what is known as Japanese ‘Soul’ food, a Western-influenced and adapted ‘comfort’ food. We are told that yaki soba is a street food favourite and always served smothered in the thick brown yaki soba sauce. But I must admit I am not that keen on Worcester sauce unless it is present in the form of a few drops on a steak, or in a blue cheese dip or dressing. Large spoonfuls is outside my comfort zone. Therefore, this recipe is adapted with a toned-down version of tonkatsu sauce. NB: I cook my stir-fries in stages using several bowls – or one big bowl
1. Make the sauce. Combine the ingredients into a bowl. Measure the chicken stock
2. Cook the noodles. Cook according to the time on instructions. No more than al dente. Drain reserving a cup of the cooking liquid. Cool the noodles in cold water, drain, return to the pan with a splash of cooking liquid and a little sesame oil. Keep stirring the noodles so that they don’t stick or clump, add splashes of the cooking liquid if necessary.
3. Cook the bacon and prawns. I was rather alarmed at the amount of water and salt that exuded from the bacon I bought. You might consider buying a low-salt bacon or a good quality air-dried bacon. To overcome any water and salt problems, chop the bacon into thin slices and cook on a high heat in a large wok. At this quantity the bacon will start to stew and release its water and salt. Discard the liquid when most has been released and then add a little boiling water, cook again and discard the liquid. There will of course be some bacon flavour going to waste, but if you taste the liquid, you’ll agree that this is best kept out of your yaki soba. Add a little vegetable oil and cook again until the bacon just begins to colour, then add the prawns and cook for a couple of minutes. Put the bacon and prawns in a bowl and set aside.
4. Cook the pepper, celery, ginger and onion. Slice the pepper into short thin slices, chop the celery at an angle into thin slices, peel and julienne the ginger, chop the onion at an angle into thin slices use the white and most of the green. Add a little vegetable oil to the wok, turn the heat up high and fry the pepper, celery and ginger for 3 minutes, then add the spring onion and fry for a further minute. Put the vegetables in a bowl and set aside.
5. Cook the cabbage and beans. Drain the bean sprouts and remove as much water as possible. Cut the tough center from the savoy cabbage and any tough stems on outer leaves. Chop or shred the cabbage into thin strips. Add a little vegetable oil to the wok, turn the heat up high and fry beans for 2 minutes, put into a bowl and set aside. Add a little vegetable oil to the wok, turn the heat up high and fry cabbage for 3 minutes, put into a bowl and set aside.
6. Finish and serve. Put a little vegetable oil in the wok and add the noodles (drain any liquid first). Fry until heated through. Add the bacon and prawns, pepper, celery, ginger and onion and stir then add the sauce and the stock and heat. Finally add the bean sprouts and cabbage and toss together until heated through. Serve garnished with sesame seeds and chives.
Tips: Instant noodles can be fried to crispy, but other wheat and egg type noodles can become tough or bitter, so do not over-cook. Rather than load the yaki soba with extra vegetables, try cooking some plain green vegetables as a side. This is also good cold as a leftover or re-fried with egg for breakfast (cook the egg in the wok first).
You may also like Dad’s Smoked Mackerel Canapés recipe.
Some delicious Japanese salads: Plum Soba, Prawns and Shiso Salad or Green Tea Soba Salad or Seared Tuna with Soba Noodle Salad.