A couple weeks ago my friends Mizuho and Siu came over and made yakisoba in my kitchen. They laughed, though not in a mean way, and certainly not for the first time, at me and my silly notions about Japanese cuisine -- in this particular case, my belief that yakisoba was, literally, fried soba noodles. The buckwheat ones. Fair assumption, right? I happen to have a recipe for "fried soba" and that's what it calls for. I've made it, and it's good! And probably a lot more nutritious than the real thing, which is, I'm told, actually fried ramen noodles. (It occurs to me that this mistake is not unlike thinking hamburgers are made with chopped ham...)
Anyway, to make real "street" yakisoba -- the sort served up by food vendors at parks and shrines during festival time here -- Mizuho recommends buying a kit, a bag of soft fresh noodles that comes with little flavor packets. These are found everywhere here -- at Lawsons and other combini and in most supermarkets. (Not sure how easy these are to find outside of Japan...anybody know?)
Back in the kitchen, heat a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wok or other pan. Stir fry chopped cabbage, carrots, green onions and bean sprouts, maybe some mushrooms or red and yellow bell peppers -- whatever you like really. I happened to have one of those mixed bags, with everything already chopped, which saves time, obviously. As a bonus, our bag included a few of those dark brown ruffly mushrooms.
Once the veggies have started to wilt a bit, add the liquid flavor packet that came with the noodles and keep stirring.
Microwave the noodles for half a minute to soften them up. Add them to the pan, pulling them apart with chopsticks. (Note to self: buy some cooking chopsticks, which are bigger and will make this task easier. For now we will use regular chopsticks.)
Cut open the dry flavor packet and sprinkle the contents over the noodles.
You can add a bit of warm water from the kettle that you used earlier to boil water for tea (so the water is still warm), just enough liquid to help the noodles absorb it all. Add a dash of sesame oil for flavor.
Continue stir-frying until heated through, maybe 5-10 more minutes. Put it all into a serving bowl.
Toast a sheet of dried seaweed (nori) by brushing it across an open flame (!?)
Crumble the nori on top and serve!
Well thanks, ladies. Come again and cook for me again soon, will you?