Yakisoba (焼きそば) is the Japanese version of stir-fried noodles. The noodles are cooked with sliced pork and plenty of vegetables, then coated with a special sauce. What distinguishes Yakisoba from other Asian stir-fried noodles is this special sauce, which is sweet and a little bit spicy.
Yakisoba is known as one of the popular street foods in Japan. You will always find Yakisoba stalls wherever festivals are held. At the stalls, a large amount of noodles are cooked on a huge iron plate. When you buy, your portion is taken directly from the iron plate and served hot.
What’s in Yakisoba?
The Yakisoba sold at festival stalls normally has a very small amount of vegetables in it, but when you make it at home you add plenty of vegetables.
In today’s recipe, I used thinly sliced pork, carrot, cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, bean sprouts and shallots/scallions. You don’t need to use all these vegetables, but these are the ones most commonly used in Yakisoba in Japan. You can also use sliced onions and chopped Asian greens.
The meat can be chicken or beef slices but pork is the most popular meat for Yakisoba.
Yakisoba noodles are yellow noodles made from ramen noodles that are steamed and coated slightly in oil so that they cook faster and it is easier to separate each strand of noodle when stir frying.
If you are in Japan, you can buy a packet of noodles labelled as ‘yakisoba noodles’ or ‘for yakisoba’. But in Australia, I cannot buy such noodles, so I substitute them with Chinese yellow noodles.
The most suitable Chinese noodles are round and of medium thickness (about 2mm/1⁄16″), and not oily. The photo below shows the yellow noodles I used in this recipe, but you do not have to use the same.
If you think about it, the ingredients are almost identical to those used in Yaki Udon (Stir Fried Udon Noodles), except for the noodles.
But, there are two important ingredients that make today’s noodle dish special and totally different from Yaki Udon. They are a special Yakisoba sauce and garnishes.
About Yakisoba Sauce
Each household has a favourite Yakisoba sauce. Some people make their own by mixing different sauces. Some buy a bottle of Yakisoba sauce from a shop. I make my own by mixing different sauces.
My Yakisoba sauce consists of:
- Bulldog tonkatsu sōsu (sauce)
- Bulldog usutā sōsu (sauce)
- Soy sauce
- Tomato sauce (in Australia) or tomato ketchup
- Dashi seasoning powder
Bulldog is a Japanese brand name. When I talk about my Yakisoba sauce, I have to talk about Bulldog sauces.
Bulldog – the Japanese Sauce company
As you all know, soy sauce is one of the key ingredients of Japanese cuisine and can be used as a dipping sauce too.
But in Japanese home cooking, there is something called ‘sōsu‘ (ソース, sauce), which is also used regularly. Japanese people even eat shredded cabbage or green salad with sōsu dribbled over the vegetables, instead of using the Western-style salad dressings.
The colour of Japanese sauce is dark brown and it comes in different thicknesses. The sauce with a low viscosity is very similar to Worcestershire sauce.
The famous Japanese sauce company called ‘Bulldog’ (ブルドック) named this thin sauce ‘Bulldog usutā sōsu’ (ブルドックウスターソース). The word ‘usutā’ is the Japanese pronunciation of Worcester. There is also ‘Bulldog chūnō sōsu’ (ブルドック中濃ソース) and ‘Bulldog tonkatsu sōsu’ (ブルドックとんかつソース).
Tonkatsu sōsu was made specifically to pour over Tonkatsu (Japanese Pork Schnitzel) or other bread crumbed deep-fried dishes such as croquettes and prawn cutlets. It is the thickest and the sweetest sauce of the three Bulldog sauces.
Try tonkatsu sōsu on Korokke (Japanese Potato and Ground Meat Croquettes), Menchi Katsu (Ground Meat Cutlet), and even Creamy Shrimp Croquettes.
Chuunou so-su sits between the other two sauces in both flavour and thickness. The word ‘chūnō‘ (中濃) means medium thickness.
You can buy these sauces at Japanese/Asian grocery stores. At Japanese grocery shops, you can also buy Yakisoba sauce in a bottle. But just like any other foods, I like my home-made version of Yakisoba sauce.
About Yakisoba Garnishes
There are two important garnishes you need to complete Yakisoba. They are ‘aonori‘ (青海苔, dried seaweed flakes) and ‘benishōga‘ (紅生姜, red pickled ginger).
The word ‘ao’ (青) in aonori means blue and nori (海苔) is the generic term for seaweed. Well, as you can see in the photo above, it is not blue but green.
Japanese people use the word ‘blue’ to express the colour ‘green’ quite often. For example, they say the colours of the traffic lights are red, yellow and blue, even though they are red, yellow and green. Green apples are called ‘aoringo’ (青リンゴ, blue apple).
In Japan, it is said that in the Heian period (which ran from 794 to 1192), when the capital of Japan was Kyoto, there were only 4 adjectives to describe colours, i.e. black, white, red and blue. So each colour had to cover a wider range of real colours, e.g. calling something blue even if it is green. How interesting!
The word ‘beni‘ (紅) in ‘benishōga’ means red and ‘shōga’ (生姜) is ginger. It is quite different from pickled ginger, which is served with sushi. Pickled ginger for sushi has a much lighter colour – either very faint pink or the natural colour of ginger. It is also slightly sweet while red pickled ginger is a bit salty.
Although Yakisoba is still good without the garnishes, I think that sprinkling aonori over the mound of Yakisoba, topped with benishōga makes Yakisoba great.
Yakisoba (焼きそば) is the Japanese version of stir-fried noodles. The noodles are cooked with sliced pork and plenty of vegetables (cabbage, bean sprouts, carrots, onion and shallots/scallions), then coated with a special sauce. Chicken or beef would also work well instead of pork. You can also use different vegetables that are suitable for stir fry.
Please see the video at the end of this recipe card.
Don't forget to see the section 'MEAL IDEAS' below the recipe card! It gives you a list of dishes that I have already posted and this recipe that can make up a complete meal. I hope it is of help to you.
- 300g / 10.5oz yellow noodles (note 1)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp oil (vegetable oil or peanut oil)
- 200g / 7oz pork thinly sliced to bite size( note2)
- 60g / 2oz carrot thinly sliced diagonally
- 100g / 3.5oz cabbage cut into bite size (note 3)
- 3 shiitake mushrooms sliced into 2mm / 1/16" thick
- 2 stalks shallots/scallions diagonally sliced
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 40ml/1.4oz Bulldog tonkatsu sōsu (note 5)
- 50ml/1.7oz Bulldog usutā sōsu (note 5)
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- ½ tbsp tomato sauce (in Aussie terminology)/tomato ketchup
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp dashi seasoning powder diluted in ½ tsp hot water (note 6)
Add all the Yakisoba Sauce ingredients into a cup or a bowl and mix well. Set aside until required.
Boil a sufficient amount of water in a sauce pan and boil the noodles for 1 minute.
Drain and sprinkle sesame oil over the noodles and mix until all noodles are coated. This is to prevent the noodles from sticking to each other.
Heat oil in a wok or a large frypan over medium high heat. Add the pork and sauté until the pork is almost cooked through (about 2-3 minutes).
Add the carrots and stir fry for 30 seconds, then add the cabbage and shiitake mushrooms.
Stir-fry for about 1 minute until the cabbage is nearly cooked, then add the shallots and bean sprouts.
After stir-frying for 30 seconds, add the noodles. Mix the noodles and vegetables well (note 9).
Add the Yakisoba Sauce and mix quickly to ensure that all the noodles are coated with the sauce, and the colour of the noodles is consistent, without any light-coloured patches.
Transfer the noodles onto serving plates, piling them into a mound.
Sprinkle aonori over the noodles and add the benishōga on the top or the side of the noodles or serve in a separate bowl/plate for individual to add topping themselves.
1. Yakisoba noodles are the same as ramen or Chinese yellow noodles. The thickness of yakisoba noodles is about 2mm / 1/16", but you could use thicker noodles. See the photo in my post of the noodles I used.
I would not recommend very thin noodles as they will overcook easily and become doughy. I would not use Hokkien Noodles either as they are quite oily and too heavy for yakisoba in my view.
2. Any cut of pork suitable for stir-fry is fine. I happened to have pork scotch fillet. I sometimes use thinly sliced pork belly. It makes yakisoba a bit richer, but I like it.
You can use chicken or beef, although pork is the most popular meat.
3. I randomly cut the cabbage into bite size pieces. The size of the piece is about 5cm x 3cm / 2" x 1¼". The shape does not have to be rectangular at all.
4. You can adjust the quantity of each ingredient to your liking. I used the Bulldog branded sauce, but you can use other brands if you like.
5. You can buy Bulldog sauces at Asian/Japanese grocery stores.
6. The dashi seasoning powder is used to add umami to the sauce. It is an instant dashi powder that you can buy at Japanese/Asian grocery stores or possibly at supermarkets (see Home Style Japanese Dashi Stock for samples).
Alternatively, you can add 2 tablespoons of bonito flakes when mixing the sauce with the noodles.
If you don’t have either of them, you can omit this.
7. Aonori is quite different from yakinori (焼き海苔, roasted seaweed sheets used in sushi rolls). It is green and chopped into teeny tiny pieces. It is used not only as a topping for Yakisoba but also for Okonomiyaki (Japanese Savory Pancake). It is sometimes added to the batter for Tempura.
You can buy aonori at Japanese grocery stores. See the post for a sample pack.
Although the flavour is quite different, you could substitute aonori with yakinori (roasted seaweed sheet). Julienne a small sheet of yakinori into about 2.5cm/1' long strips.
8. Benishōga is red pickled ginger. It comes either in sliced or julienned pieces in a packet/bottle. If you have red pickled ginger slices, you can just julienne them.
You can buy benishōga at Japanese/Asian grocery stores and perhaps at some supermarkets. See the post for a sample pack.
Do not substitute the pickled ginger used for sushi for the red pickled ginger. The flavour of the pickled ginger for sushi is quite different and does not go well with Yakisoba.
9. From this step onwards, if the wok or frying pan is not large enough to cook the yakisoba at once, cook in batches in individual serving portions or half the quantity. You will get a much better result than trying to cook a huge amount of noodles in a small wok/frying pan. I actually cooked my yakisoba in batches.
When cooking in batches:
Before you add the noodles, take out the stir-fried meat and vegetables, leaving one serving portion in the wok/frying pan. Then add one serving of noodles and continue the following steps using one serving of the sauce. Repeat for the other servings.
Originally published in August 2016, improved photos and contents with Meal Ideas in 2020 (no change to recipe).