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In Japan, yakisoba is a street food staple often sold straight off of the teppan (iron griddle), but it's easy to make this stir-fried noodle dish at home in a wok or large frying pan.

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What Is Yakisoba?

Yakisoba, which means "fried noodles," is a Japanese stir-fried noodle dish. Yakisoba is traditionally made with wheat-based noodles known as chukasoba or chukamen mixed with pork and veggies. “Chuka” means noodle in Chinese, reflecting this dish’s origins; wheat noodles, and the technique of stir-frying noodles, came to Japan by way of China. Yakisoba is essentially a Japanese version of the Chinese dish chow mein.

Yakisoba vs. Yaki Udon: What’s the Difference?

Yaki udon and yakisoba are both Japanese stir-fried noodle dishes made from many of the same ingredients, but there are a few key differences:

  • Thickness: Yaki udon is made with thick, chewy, wheat-flour udon noodles. Yakisoba is made with thinner, more springy wheat-flour noodles.
  • Color: Yaki udon noodles are white in color. Yakisoba noodles, also known as chukamen or chukasoba, get their distinctive yellow color from kansui (alkaline water).
  • Sauce: Yaki udon is served with a concentrated form of mentsuyu, a noodle broth that's similar to dashi, with the addition of soy sauce and mirin. Yakisoba, on the other hand, is stir-fried in yakisoba sauce—a thick, sweet mix of Worcestershire sauce and oyster sauce.

5 Essential Yakisoba Ingredients

Recreate this Japanese food at home with your choice of noodles, protein, and condiments. There are five essential ingredients for yakisoba:

  1. Noodles: Yakisoba is typically made with yellow wheat noodles called chukamen or chukasoba. You can find yakisoba noodles at Japanese grocery stores or make yakisoba with other Japanese noodles such as ramen noodles (which have a similar flavor and texture to yakisoba noodles), udon noodles, or soba noodles (buckwheat noodles).
  2. Yakisoba sauce: You can buy pre-packed yakisoba sauce at Japanese grocery stores, or make your own at home using Worcestershire sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, mirin, and ketchup.
  3. Pork belly: Yakisoba is often made with thinly sliced pork belly, but other types of protein work as well. Try shrimp or chicken yakisoba, or make vegetarian yakisoba with tofu.
  4. Veggies: Quick-cooking vegetables like green cabbage, bok choy, bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, bean sprouts, and carrots are the easiest to stir-fry.
  5. Garnishes and condiments: Like other popular street foods, such as okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake), yakisoba is often served garnished with toppings such as katsuobushi (bonito flakes), beni shoga (pickled ginger), Japanese mayonnaise, and aonori (nori seaweed flakes).