The first time I had yakamein was from the famous Yakamein Lady in New Orleans. She learned how to make it from her mother, and her mom learned it from her mother. Her version, with hard-boiled eggs and green onions, is really simple and good. Basically, it’s a mash-up of soul food and Chinese food, kind of a New Orleans version of ramen and pho.
Growing up in New Orleans, I’d find yakamein along second-line routes during Mardi Gras and on Frenchmen Street. It’s also known as a hangover cure since it is hearty and filling. People would leave the bars and go have a cup of yakamein.
You start with the beef — in New Orleans, it’s usually the beef you’d use for roast beef po’boys. You cook it down in a broth made with beef bones and soy sauce. Some people put hoisin or oyster sauce in there as well. And then your “holy trinity” — onion, bell pepper, and celery — which you find in a lot of New Orleans dishes. The noodle is usually spaghetti, which absorbs the broth and takes on that brown color — that’s when it’s best.
When I make yakamein at Ina Mae Tavern, I use extra bones to give the broth more body and a beefier taste. I want to stay true to the original flavors. I want you to have it exactly the way you’d have it down in New Orleans.