Yak-a-mein, a meaty noodle soup known as Old Sober, is New Orleans’s tried and true hangover cure. It’s commonly found at corner groceries and takeout spots, and is a staple at the neighborhood parades called Second Lines and city festivals.
Spelled myriad different ways (yakamein, ya-ka-mein, yaka mein, yaka meat), yak-a-mein is street food, dished up by vendors from the tailgate of pickup trucks. The soulful brew is a crossbreed of Asian and African-American culinary traditions, typically made from a combination of beef, cooked eggs, green onions, and noodles stewed in a spicy, salty broth.
The most popular explanation of its origins is that Black soldiers who fought in the Korean War got a taste of the food and brought it back home, where spouses, mothers, and grandmothers made the recipe their own. Another is that Chinese immigrants who came to Louisiana to work on sugar plantations and railroads brought their noodle soup with them and introduced it to their African-American coworkers.
However it got here, a steaming bowl of Old Sober is a distinctly New Orleans dish. Here now, Eater’s guide to the city’s yak-a-mein, arranged geographically. -BA
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