Are you looking for a one-pot wonder? Our quick chicken yakisoba recipe’s chewy stir-fried noodles and vegetables are seasoned in Japanese with a beautiful savory sweet sauce.
On a trip to Yokohama, Japan, I first tried yakisoba. The city features the country’s largest Chinatown, and many eateries provide Chuka or Japanese-Chinese cuisine, aromatic yakisoba noodles in a thick, umami-rich sauce recall Chinese stir-fried noodles. I was captivated and began experimenting with making yakisoba at home.
Noodles have been eaten in Japan since the 4th century when Chinese traders brought buckwheat soba noodles and udon noodles. Japanese chefs altered Chinese noodles over time to make them thinner and faster-cooking for use as street food.
However, yakisoba became popular in Japan in the mid-twentieth century. After WWII, American condiments became widely available. As a result, cooks began experimenting with new ingredients, such as Worcestershire sauce and ketchup, yielding the sweet, acidic, and salty sauce fundamental to a superb yakisoba dish.
Postwar demand for convenience food ingredients, returning G.I.s familiar with yakisoba, and the availability of instant Japanese noodles such as Nissan and Maruchan contributed to the surge in popularity of this simple dish.
My generation is rediscovering all the reasons to adore this flexible one-pan dish, including that it can be made in less than 30 minutes!
What is yakisoba?
Yakisoba refers to both the Japanese stir-fried noodle dish and the quick-cooking wheat noodles used in its preparation. Yakisoba literally translates to “stir-fried noodles.
What are yakisoba noodles?
Yakisoba noodles, or ramen or thin Chinese wheat noodles, are thin wheat flour noodles. They’re pre-cooked and don’t need to be boiled before stir-frying; rinse them under hot water and separate them carefully with your hands. Yakisoba noodles are available at supermarkets and Asian grocery stores. If fresh or dry ramen noodles or Chinese wheat noodles are unavailable, prepare them according to package directions until soft (al dente).
Ingredients for yakisoba
The recipe that follows asks for chicken breast in addition to noodles. Still, you may use your preferred protein to make beef yakisoba, shrimp yakisoba, pork yakisoba, or even tofu for vegetable yakisoba. The most common vegetables are napa cabbage, onions, carrots, and shiitake mushrooms. However, green cabbage, kale, spinach, bean sprouts, and green onions can be substituted for chives.
You’ll also need ingredients for the yakisoba sauce covered below.
How to make yakisoba
As with any stir-fry, some preparation time is required before cooking. The goal is to chop the components into long, thin, bite-size pieces like noodles. As a result, cooking time is reduced, and when serving, you may effortlessly pick up the noodles, vegetables, and meat with one sweep of your chopsticks.
1. Prep the veggies
To begin, chop the vegetables into thin strips. For example, you are cutting the onions and shiitake mushrooms into 1/4-inch slices. Next, stack the cabbage leaves, roll them into a tight cylinder, and cut them into 1/4-inch-thick shreds with a chef’s knife. Next, make thin carrot ribbons with a vegetable peeler, turning the carrot as you peel so that one side does not become too squared off.
You can also chop the garlic and cut the chives into 3-inch pieces. Your vegetables, except the garlic, should be long and thin enough to imitate the shape of noodles.
2. Prep the chicken
Cut the chicken into 1/4-inch thick slices 1 1/2 to 2 inches broad. When stir-frying, I marinate the chicken in a cornstarch and soy sauce mixture for 5-10 minutes to keep it juicy. Marinating the meat at room temperature rather than in the refrigerator ensures it cooks evenly.
3. Make the yakisoba sauce
Now for the sauce. You may be wondering what yakisoba sauce is. What is Worcestershire sauce? Ketchup? Even though neither is a traditional Japanese ingredient, they have become so popular in Japan since the mid-twentieth century that they have become staples in many comfort food meals.
The trick with yakisoba is to balance the tanginess of Worcestershire sauce and ketchup with a hint of sweetness from sugar and savoriness from the oyster sauce. While traditional Chinese oyster sauce is excellent for this recipe, vegan oyster sauce with mushroom flavoring is also available for that umami kick.
Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl.
4. Cook the yakisoba
We’re finally ready to make this noodle meal! You can use a wok, a nonstick or stainless-steel frying pan with a minimum diameter of 12 inches, or a broad Dutch oven.
Heat some vegetable oil over medium-high heat, then add the chicken and spread it out in a single layer. You’ll be tempted to start stirring immediately, but I’ll tell you a little secret: Leave it alone! That’s correct. Allowing the chicken to sear for one to two minutes before stirring will enable it to create a lovely golden-brown sear. When the color is good, mix until the pieces are no longer pink. You can also examine the doneness of a report by cutting it open.
Place the chicken on a platter and put it aside. Next, we’ll proceed to the veggies, first heating the onion, garlic, and shiitake mushrooms, followed by the cabbage and carrots. The noodles are then added.
The final step is to return the chicken to the skillet, add the sauce and chives, and stir everything together with tongs. Total time: approximately 35 minutes!