My friend Vivek Surti recently wrote a really nice article about OTAKU South, Sarah Gavigan’s series of pop-up dinners focusing on serving Nashville the best bowl of ramen that the city has ever seen. While I’m all about a great bowl of ramen and have sought the selfsame out in some of the sketchier neighborhoods of Manhattan, San Francisco and Atlanta, I’m always a little suspicious of a $35 bowl of noodles.
From all accounts Gavigan is doing it the right way, buying a month’s worth of meat bones from Porter Road Butcher to steep for hours as part of the broth-brewing process. Her attention to authenticity and detail is admirable and I wish her every success. But what the story really made me want to do was whip up a batch of “Redneck Ramen,” what New Orleanians call Yaka Mein.
You might see it spelled “Yakameien” or “Yakamee” or “Yock a main.” In fact, there are so many possible spellings, it’s almost impossible to misspell. (Unlike the word “misspell.”) It’s also really easy to make, so it’s right up my alley.
Nicknamed “Old Sober” for its magical hangover curative powers, you can imagine how popular this dish must be in a city where bars only close when they are physically on fire or underwater. The deep rich broth filled with noodles, slices of hard boiled egg and topped with green onions are very similar to ramen, but with an extra layer of funkiness provided by the Cajun seasonings.
Locals have been known to add a dollop of ketchup to their serving bowls, but I prefer a little Crystal hot sauce. If Worcestershire Sauce (another damned difficult word, btw) or soy sauce are more your style, feel free to have at it. After all, New Orleans is “the city that care forgot.” Ain’t nobody gonna bust on you for your condiment choice. Desitively!
Yaka Mein “Old Sober”
3-4 lbs. stewing beef roast (I prefer chuck roast)
5 quarts of water
2 tablespoons of beef base (Use Porter Road’s or your own beef stock or something like Better than Bouillon)
1 teaspoon of seasoned salt
1 tablespoon of Cajun seasoning (Tony Cachere or Slap Ya Mama)
1 teaspoon of onion powder
½ teaspoon of garlic powder
4 tablespoons of vegetable oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound box of spaghetti or linguine noodles (I like to break them in half before boiling to limit the mess while eating. Who am I kidding? It’s always a mess to eat!)
8 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
1 green onion, sliced on the bias
Soy sauce, hot sauce, to taste
Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, optional on table for individual addition
Fill a stockpot halfway with water. Add the beef base and all dry seasonings except salt and pepper to the pot and whisk to mix up. Place the meat in a stockpot – the water should cover the meat by about an inch.
Bring water and seasonings to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the meat is tender enough to fall apart. Remove the beef from the broth and using forks, pull it apart and return the shredded beef to the broth.
Add salt and pepper, taste and adjust seasonings. Hold the soup over low until needed.
Boil the eggs, cool and peel them; slice and set aside. Cook the spaghetti noodles according to package directions, about 9 minutes for al dente.
Assemble the soup by placing a single serving of spaghetti noodles in a large bowl. Using a slotted spoon, take a large serving of the shredded beef and add to the top of the noodles. Add ½ of a sliced boiled egg or cut egg into chunks. Spoon about 1-1/2 cups of the beef broth on top and sprinkle with sliced green onion.
Season with a few dashes of soy sauce, and hot sauce. Offer Worcestershire sauce and ketchup for diners to customize their own hangover cure
Note: this recipe also works great in a slow cooker. Put the roast and seasonings in the slow cooker, cover and cook on high for 1 hour. Then simmer on low for 8-10 hours longer until beef shreds with a fork. Boil the noodles, eggs and assemble as above.