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slurp city: ya ka mein with pho broth

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By Jen White · February 13, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Lately, I've been craving some beefy noodles in a rich broth, something close to ya ka mein.  Don't worry that you're not up on your Cajun or Creole foods if you've never heard of it--it's neither.  Ya ka mein is a soup with these main characters: beef, soy sauce, and spaghetti noodles, topped with green onions and a hard-boiled egg.  You see it at festivals, fundraisers, and Jazz Fest, and rarely anywhere else.  Here's a little background on it, from the Gulf Aid concert in 2010:

And you can see that Ms. Linda's ya ka mein is totally slurp-worthy:

Now, the thing I remember most about this ya ka mein is that soy sauce is the predominant flavor, and these days, those delicately spiced broths you get in a good bowl of pho are more of what my palate craves.  Because ya ka mein and pho aren't necessarily strangers to each other, I just decided to dress mine up with a yummy pho-style broth and some pho-style toppings.  Kind of like ya ka mein showed up to the picnic in a fancy dress.  So this version will be a lot of things that pho is--a bone-warmer, a sinus-clearer, and a hangover cure--but with a New Orleans street-food twist.  Yeah, you right.

This recipe takes some time, but you can take a serious shortcut if you have some leftover shredded brisket or roast beef lying around.  You could also simmer the spices in store-bought beef broth instead of making your own from bones, but you'd only save about 30 minutes and you'd spend a lot more money on the broth.  Pho broth is so good, I say go for it.  You can do the laundry and boil the eggs while the beef cooks.

ya ka mein with pho broth

for the broth:

  • 2 lbs. beef soup bones with marrow
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 1" chunks of gingerroot
  • 1 Tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 large carrots, cut in half
  • 6 star anise
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt


for the soup:

  • 2 lbs. beef stew meat, in large cubes
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • spaghetti noodles, about 2 oz. per person
  • sliced green onions
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
  • chopped cilantro
  • sliced jalapeno peppers
  • sriracha sauce


  1. First, make the broth: Heat the oven to 450. Place beef bones in a roasting pan in one layer, and roast for 15 minutes.  Toss the onion, garlic, and ginger in a small pan with the canola oil.  Place in the oven alongside the bones and roast for another 30 minutes, turning the bones halfway through.
  2. Place the bones and onion mixture in a large stockpot.  Add 5 quarts fresh water (this is going to reduce a lot) and the carrots, star anise, cinnamon stick, and salt.  Bring to a boil, skimming any foam that rises to the top, then reduce heat and simmer for one hour.
  3. Remove the bones and large solids.  Set a strainer over a large bowl and line with cheesecloth; pour the broth through the strainer, then return to the pot.
  4. Make the soup: Add the beef cubes to the broth, bring to a boil, skimming any foam, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover with a lid set slightly ajar.  Simmer for about 3 hours, until the beef is fork-tender, adding water in small amounts if necessary to keep enough broth in the pot for 6 to 8 servings. (If using leftover beef, simmer for about 30 minutes in the broth, uncovered--you'll want the broth to reduce down a lot faster.) When the beef is tender, remove the cubes to a plate and coarsely shred with two forks, then return them to the broth. Skim any fat you see floating at the top.  Add soy sauce and rice vinegar; taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Keep warm over low heat while the noodles cook.
  5. Cook spaghetti according to package, based on the number of people eating now. Drain and reserve.
  6. To serve, place a portion of spaghetti in a large bowl.  Ladle broth and beef over noodles, then top with green onions, cilantro, jalapeno slices, hard-boiled egg quarters, and sriracha sauce, if you like some heat.


serves 8

posted by T Kristen Parker

We have a Vietnamese restaurant in Springfield, and I practically live there for their seafood noodle soup - I get mine with rice noodles, squeeze some lime on it, dunk a couple of jalapenos in, and enjoy the freshest bowl of heaven available to me.

posted by

Heaven indeed!

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