If there’s one thing we know here in New Orleans, it’s how to cure a hangover. And one surefire way of doing so is with a big, hot bowl of ya-ka-mein soup. Earning the nickname “Old Sober,” this Asian-inspired New Orleans recipe is traditionally made with beef, spaghetti noodles, spices, green onions, and a hard-boiled egg—containing all of the carbs, protein, and sodium needed to make amends after a long night on the town. But only recently has this down-home staple been making an appearance on the menus of some of the more upscale New Orleans restaurants, and of course, the soup is so good you don’t have to be hung over to enjoy it. Slurp the best ya-ka-mein in town at these four New Orleans spots.
Miss Linda – Food Network’s “Chopped!” Champion Linda Green has been selling her famous ya-ka-mein for many years – from the back of pickup trucks during second lines all the way to the big name festivals like Jazz and Essence Fest. Her traditional version is made the old fashioned way with pieces of beef floating in a rich beef stock, thick spaghetti noodles, fresh green onions, and a hard-boiled egg. Her version might not be fancy but they don’t call it the best for nothing. You can find Miss Linda’s famous recipe on Thursday evenings at the Ogden Museum, or at Jazz in the Park, which kicks off on September 5 from noon to 8 p.m. in Louis Armstrong Park. Local’s tip: for the vegetarians out there, Miss Linda serves a delicious bowl of veggie ya-ka-mein at Jazz Fest that is to die for!
Ralph’s on the Park – On the appetizer menu next to Fried Smoked Oysters and Tuna Two Ways, you’ll find Chef Chip Flanagan’s version of this soul-food classic. Prepared with pork belly in lieu of beef, the stock (which is seasoned with star anise and soy sauce) is reduced to a thickness that resembles more of a sauce than a broth. Instead of a hardboiled egg, Chef Chip floats a softly fried egg prettily on top.
Sainte Marie – Inspired by one of the cooks at the restaurant, Sam’s yak-a-mein is Chef Kristen Essig’s amped up ode to this classic New Orleans fare. Beef and poultry stock are seasoned with Worcestershire, soy sauce, onions and celery and cooked down to condense the rich flavors. Shaved chicken, hanger steak, and Gulf shrimp get tangled up in house-made egg noodles. A soft-boiled egg, fresh cilantro, and spicy chili-garlic paste add extra richness and flavor.
Chinese Kitchen – Though not commonly served at Chinese restaurants, this hidden gem on Carrollton Avenue bridges the gap with their ya-ka-mein featuring sliced pork (most commonly found in won ton soup), thick udon-style noodles, scallions, and, of course, a hard-boiled egg. Drizzle in a few drops of Sriracha for an added kick. Local’s tip: Chinese Kitchen does take-out, but you have to go there in order to place your order, as they will not take them over the phone.