Monday, March 15, 2010

New Orleans Old Sober - Yakamein Beef Noodle Soup

Yak a Mein, New Orleans Old Sober Soup is most often made from beef, always includes boiled eggs, and is offered with condiments of soy sauce, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup.
Yak a Mein, New Orleans Old Sober Soup is most often made from beef, always includes boiled eggs, and is offered with condiments of soy sauce, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup.

Yakamein Beef Noodle Soup

Known by a couple of different names and spellings, Yakamein (Ya Ka Mein) Soup, often just called "Yock," picked up the name "Old Sober" in New Orleans, for its alleged healing powers in warding off the after-effects and resulting hangover from late night French Quarter partying.

A popular soup in several areas of the United States, Yakamein, was sold mostly in neighborhood mom and pop bodegas of New Orleans in days past but became a lost recipe there for a bit. Maybe the flooding of Hurricane Katrina contributed to that in New Orleans.

Though you can find it these days, the primary source seems to be Miss Linda, who followed in the footsteps of her mother, being the most well-known Yakamein Lady, selling at second lines and festivals around the city. I hope that Yakamein falls back into favor as a street food at some point, because it is a mild, but flavorful beef noodle soup for any day, hangover or not!

By the way, should you be so inflicted at some point, swing by my hangover helpers for a few more ideas to help you out, especially useful for those Carnival nights.
This is a good place to insert a quick reminder... that this is a blog, not just a "recipe site," and yes, there is a difference! Thanks so much to those of you who have supported my work over the years. Your notes to me are uplifting and encouraging. If you're here to grab a recipe however, and not interested in the chit chat, info, history, photos, tips and such in a post, as always, you'll find the complete recipe text with measurements and instructions, as well as a printable document, a little bit further down the page. Just swipe or scroll down to the bottom of the post!
I had intended to get this post up during Carnival season, but it flew by and was over before I got to it. Too bad, since it is supposed to have such hangover curative powers, something that would certainly come in handy during Carnival. At least it will be here for the next party, which in The Deep South, is always only just around the corner.

If you know about this soup, you'll find some nostalgic memories in this post. If you have no idea about this, you may find this soup, well... let's just say unusual and leave it at that, though really it's just a simple beef noodle soup!

There is some dispute over the origins of Old Sober in the New Orleans area - but I'm more prone to agree with those who say Yakamein was introduced to New Orleans cuisine when Chinese workers relocated there from south Louisiana plantations. 

Chinese immigrants were brought in alongside African slaves to work the railroads in the mid-1800s, and later, when more immigrants arrived to work the sugar plantations in Louisiana following emancipation.

Finding the work unsuitable, the Chinese population relocated to the New Orleans area, and settled into a section of town on South Liberty, near a newly established Chinese Mission.  Soon, the emergence of shops, hand laundries, food markets and eateries catering to the Chinese population expanded from the Mission and into the 1100 block of Tulane, creating a geographical hub for the Chinese community and what would become known as New Orleans Chinatown.

Yes, who knew?! New Orleans at one time had a Chinatown, though not nearly as large or well defined as those in New York City and San Francisco.

Eventually attracted by the outer suburbs however, the population moved away from the city and New Orleans Chinatown faded away. It is believed that Yakamein grew out of this time in history.

Here's how to make my Yakamein Beef Noodle Soup.

You'll need a 3-to-4-pound stewing beef roast - chuck, chuck tender, round, rump - I'm using a chuck roast.

Seasonings are simple. Salt, pepper, onion powder, Lawry's and Creole or Cajun seasoning. I usually prepare the roast with just plain water with a beef base like Better than Bouillon, but this time I had a carton of salted beef stock I needed to use. I still added a little beef base though!

Fill a stockpot halfway with water. Whisk in the beef base, seasoning salt, Cajun seasoning, onion powder, oil, pinch of salt and couple turns of the pepper grinder to the pot.

If the meat is large, I like to cut it in half. 

Place the meat in the pot.

The liquid should cover the meat plus about an inch. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 2 to 3 hours, or until the meat is tender and begins to fall apart. For the Instant Pot, you'll want to take it to 1 hour 20 minutes with a full natural release.

While that's cooking you'll want to boil the eggs, cool and peel them and set aside. Also cook the spaghetti noodles according to package directions.

The rich, salty broth is where the magic lies in this soup.

Remove the beef from the broth and let it rest 20 minutes. Using forks, pull it apart into pieces and return the shredded beef to the broth. Taste, add salt and pepper as needed and adjust seasonings to taste. Hold the soup over low until needed.

Some typical toppers include Creole or Cajun seasoning, freshly cracked black pepper, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. I like a little Tiger sauce. Some folks like ketchup too!

To assemble the soup, place a serving of spaghetti noodles in the bottom of a bowl. 

Use a slotted spoon to extract a serving of the shredded beef and add that on top of the noodles. 

Spoon about 1-1/2 cups of the beef broth on top. Add a boiled egg, either whole, halved lengthwise or cut into chunks. 

Sprinkle with sliced green onion and add a few dashes of soy sauce, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Some folks also like to also add a bit of ketchup to theirs.

While Yakamein is traditionally a beef-based soup, you can substitute other meats, such as chicken or pork, and even sometimes, shrimp have been used as well. On the street, it typically comes ladled into a large Styrofoam cup.

Pin It

Unable to view the printable below on your device? Tap/click here.

Posted by on March 15, 2010

Images and Full Post Content including Recipe ©Deep South Dish. Pinning and sharing links is welcomed and encouraged, but please do not repost or republish elsewhere such as other blogs, websites, or forums without explicit prior permission. All rights reserved.

Material Disclosure: Unless otherwise noted, you should assume that post links to the providers of goods and services mentioned, establish an affiliate relationship and/or other material connection and that I may be compensated when you purchase from a provider. You are never under any obligation to purchase anything when using my recipes and you should always perform due diligence before buying goods or services from anyone via the Internet or offline.

Mrs. Leah Chase pictured in the video, was the owner of Dooky Chase's Restaurant located on Orleans Avenue, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mrs. Chase passed away in 2019 at the age of 96.

Dooky's is a historic restaurant that was established by musician Edgar "Dooky" Chase in the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans back in the late 1940s. Later expanded by his son Dooky, and his daughter in law Leah, who brought with her the experiences of French Quarter cooking, the restaurant soon became the premiere fine dining establishment for people of color. It was frequented by famous entertainers and politicians, such as Ray Charles, Louie Armstrong, Thurgood Marshall, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a constant flow of local dignitaries, and more recently, President Obama. Hurricane Katrina put a hurting on Dooky's, so it was slow coming back, but thanks to a generous grant from Starbuck's and a wide range of various other private donations, Dooky's operated for a bit with a lunch buffet and take out services only, and now serves both lunch and dinner again. If you go to New Orleans, you should experience it - be sure to try the fried chicken.

Historical Source: Geography of New Orleans: Urban Fabrics Before the Storm, Center for Louisiana Studies, by Richard Campanella, Ph.D.
20230212-13 .