Yaka Mein (Beef Noodle Soup)

This yaka mein recipe is sponsored by Pacific Foods. All opinions expressed are my own. Thank you for supporting the companies that keep this blog going.

Yaka mein is a mishmash of Chinese and Cajun cuisines resulting in an easy, comforting, and rich beef noodle soup that will warm your soul. Chewy noodles are served in a savory and slightly sweet Asian-style beef broth. It’s topped with juicy steak, hot sauce, and a boiled egg. Delicious served hot or cold, it’s a perfect dish to cook on a busy weekday yet fancy enough to serve for Sunday dinner.

Yaka mein topped with eggs and steak

The first time I heard about yaka mein was from a reader. It is a New Orleans beef noodle soup that is supposed to have originated in China and was introduced to Louisiana in the early 1800’s by Chinese laborers.

The dish didn’t sound familiar at all, but we were immediately hooked on the concept and tested out the recipe.To our biggest surprise, the beef noodle soup turned out so rich and full of flavor by simply adding cajun seasoning to the beef broth. Today I can’t wait to show you how to cook this simple yet scrumptious dish in your own kitchen.

Homemade yaka mein

Why this recipe

This recipe uses minimal ingredients and time to create the boldest flavor!

  • Minimal cooking time. Traditional yaka mein usually consists of noodles in a beef broth seasoned with cajun seasoning, topped with braised beef brisket. When we developed the recipe, we decided to pan fry a small steak instead of braising it, which saves hours of work while maintaining a high quality.
  • Super flavorful broth. We marinate the beef with a simple sauce and then used it in the noodle broth along with the beef juice. The noodle broth turned out SO RICH.
  • Delicious steak. We marinate the steak to make it more flavorful and then beautifully char it.
  • Less prep. Because we combined the marinade with the broth, you will need to do very little chopping and prepping.

Cooking process

  • Marinate the beef in a 3-ingredient marinade.
  • Sear the steak. Cook some spaghetti in a separate pot at the same time.
  • Remove the steak once it’s done.
  • Cook the garlic and cajun seasoning in the same pan.
  • Pour the marinade back into the pan.
  • Add the beef broth and bring to a boil.

That’s it!

Yes, you do need to be a bit organized to marinate the beef in advance (minimum of 1 hour). But once it’s done, you’ll need literally 5 minutes to prep and 10 minutes to cook everything.

Yaka mein with hot sauce

Cooking notes

Spaghetti in noodle soup?

When we saw that spaghetti was a standard ingredient in Yaka Mein, our first thought was “whaaaat?”

But after a few rounds of testing, we were surprised to find that spaghetti worked so much better than other Chinese / Asian noodles! The thinner and softer Chinese noodles absorbed the flavor of the broth and made the dish taste one-note. The thicker and firmer spaghetti made the noodle bowl more dynamic. 

Cut of beef

We chose round steak because it’s a cheap cut and it works great. The thin steak absorbs the marinade faster, and the cut cooks faster, too. I sear it until both sides are browned and the inside is just cooked through. Feel free to cook for a shorter time if you like your steak medium rare!

Low-sodium beef broth

I wasn’t a big fan of low-sodium broth until I tried Pacific Foods’ version. Their Organic Low Sodium Beef Broth is so rich and flavorful that it tastes even better than the regular beef broth from other brands.

If you look at the nutrition label, you’ll find that 1 cup of regular beef broth usually contains 800mg sodium or more. If you’re making a soup using 2 cups of broth, the broth itself would contain a whole day’s worth of the daily recommended sodium intake. By comparison, the Pacific Foods Organic Low Sodium Broth only contains 125mg of sodium per serving, which is 4 times less than the regular beef broth.

Bowls of beef noodle soup

What pan to use

We’ve tried both using a nonstick pan and a carbon steel pan. Both worked well.

If you prefer easy clean-up, go ahead with the nonstick pan. Your steak will be browned just as well, due to the marinade.

On the other hand, a carbon steel pan (or cast iron pan) does produce a better charred steak while keeping the interior medium rare. Due to the sugar in the marinade, you might get some burned bits from the steak. You can use a mesh strainer to skim out the bits before serving, if you prefer a clear broth.

Put an egg on top

Yaka mein usually comes with half a hard boiled egg on top by default. I used soft-boiled eggs due to personal preference. If you want the cooking to be faster, you can cook fried eggs in the same pan you cooked the noodles in. It will take like 2 extra minutes to cook the eggs.

If you prefer boiled eggs, you can bring a small pot of water to a boil. Lower the eggs carefully into it using a ladle. Simmer for 5 to 6 minutes for soft boiled eggs, 7 minutes for medium eggs, and 10 minutes for hard boiled eggs.

Other topping options

I included the most comforting and simple yaka mein base recipe below. But feel free to add other toppings if you prefer. If you wish to add veggies, you can add them directly to the broth and cook it a bit longer until the veggies are done. Some great options include: spinach, baby bok choy, napa cabbage, broccoli, and bean sprouts.

Homemade yakamein close up
Yaka mein is a mishmash of Chinese and Cajun cuisines resulting in an easy, comforting, and rich beef noodle soup that will warm your soul. Chewy noodles are served in a savory and slightly sweet Asian-style beef broth. It’s topped with juicy steak, hot sauce, and a boiled egg. Delicious served hot or cold, it’s a perfect dish to cook on a busy weekday yet fancy enough to serve for Sunday dinner.

Yaka Mein (Beef Noodle Soup)

Yaka mein is a mishmash of Chinese and Cajun cuisines resulting in an easy, comforting, and rich beef noodle soup that will warm your soul. Chewy noodles are served in a savory and slightly sweet Asian-style beef broth. It’s topped with juicy steak, hot sauce, and a boiled egg. Delicious served hot or cold, it’s a perfect dish to cook on a busy weekday yet fancy enough to serve for Sunday dinner.
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Course: Main
Cuisine: american chinese
Keyword: comfort food
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Marinating time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 2 to 4 servings
Calories: 376kcal
Author: Maggie Zhu

Ingredients

  • 12 oz (340 g) top round steak
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Marinade

  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cajun seasoning

Broth

Noodle bowl

  • 8 oz (225 g) spaghetti (*Footnote 1)
  • 2 eggs , boiled to the degree you prefer
  • 2 green onions , chopped
  • Chili garlic sauce , to taste (or your favorite hot sauce)
  • Soy sauce (or to taste) (Optional)

Instructions

Marinate

  • Combine all the marinade ingredients in a big plate or tray that is large enough to hold the steak. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the steak to the marinade and marinate for 1 to 2 hours. Flip the meat occasionally to make sure it is evenly marinated.

Cook

  • Cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the package. Drain and set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a large cast iron or nonstick pan over high heat until hot. Add the marinated steak and save the marinade liquid for later. Let it cook without moving until the bottom is charred, 2 minutes or so. Flip to brown the other side, another 2 minutes. The steak is done if you prefer a medium-rare texture. For a well-done steak, turn to medium-low heat and cook for another 2 minutes or so. Transfer the steak to a plate and let sit for at least 10 minutes before cutting.
  • Add the garlic and cajun seasoning to the hot pan and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Add the leftover marinade and lightly scrape the bottom of the pan to release any brown bits.
  • Add the beef broth and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat. (*Footnote 2)
  • Once the meat is fully rested, slice it into strips.

Assemble

  • To assemble a bowl of yaka mein, add half of the spaghetti to a big bowl. Pour 2 cups of beef broth over the noodles. Top with the sliced steak, boiled egg, and green onions.
  • Serve with hot sauce and soy sauce on the side, if using.

Notes

  1. Depending on how you prefer to assemble your bowl, you might have leftover spaghetti. I prefer my noodle bowl very soupy, so I usually only use 6 oz (170 g) of spaghetti. You can make a more filling meal by using the full 8 oz (225 g) of spaghetti.
  2. To get a smooth soup, you can strain your broth to remove the chopped garlic or any chunks of caramelization. I prefer not to strain my soup for an easier cooking process.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 376kcal | Carbohydrates: 37.5g | Protein: 28.7g | Fat: 11.9g | Saturated Fat: 3.3g | Cholesterol: 171mg | Sodium: 619mg | Potassium: 432mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 5.1g | Calcium: 42mg | Iron: 4mg

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

Other fast and easy weekday recipes

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Meet Maggie

Hi I'm Maggie Zhu! Welcome to my site about modern Chinese cooking - including street food, family recipes, and restaurant dishes. I take a less labor-intensive approach while maintaining the taste and look of the dish. I am originally from Beijing, and now cook from my New York kitchen.

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6 thoughts on “Yaka Mein (Beef Noodle Soup)

  1. Beverly

    During these Covid restrictive times I have a beef brisket in my freezer but no steak. How would you suggest I prepare the brisket for this recipe?

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Beverly, I think there are two approaches with brisket:
      (1) Use the traditional approach of braising – chop the brisket into bite-size pieces, brown them with some oil, then braise it using the marinade ingredients (reduce soy sauce to 2 tablespoons) plus water to just cover the brisket. Braise until the brisket turns tender, which will take 1.5 to 2 hours. Then you can use the brisket and some braising liquid for the topping of the noodle soup.
      (2) Use baking soda to tenderize the brisket and pan sear it (a method often used in Chinese restaurant) – Slice the brisket against the grain, about 1/4″ thick or no more than 1/2″ thick. Add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda to the marinade, marinate the beef for 30 minutes to 1 hour (you will need less time because of the thin slices). Then sear the slices pieces using a hot pan, brown both sides and remove them once they are just cooked, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

      Reply
  2. Trish W

    Any U.S. Southerner’s first question will be what kind/brand of Cajun seasoning did you use?

    Commercially prepared store-bought products usually contain a high amount of salt & can vary wildly in flavor, especially the amount of cayenne pepper making some almost inedible. Personally I make my own salt-free Cajun blend, with cayenne to suit my family’s tastes.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Trish, I used the regular commercial cajun seasoning (the salty type, but not too spicy) in the recipe, but I think the homemade blend sounds so much better!

      Reply
  3. Liz

    I have regular, not low sodium, beef broth in the pantry. Because of the level of salt in it whenI make this I will use Beazell’s Cajun Seasoning. It is very, very low in salt and only mildly hot. I usually add cayenne to up the heat a bit. Beazell’s is not as well known outside of Louisiana, but is excellent.

    Reply