A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 01, 2018
Yaka Mein

"Ya-ka-mein” (there are many spellings) is a Chinese dish of noodle soup. Other ingredients are often added, such as beef.

“Yei go main” was cited in the New York (NY) World on March 22, 1903. “Yet-ca mein” was cited in The JournalThe Daily Picayune (New Orleans, LA) on October 9, 1905. “Yaca mein” was cited in The Inter Ocean (Chicago, IL) on July 6, 1906. “Yaka-Mein” was cited in The Oregon Daily Journal on March 10, 1911.

The dish has a reputation as a hangover cure and is sometimes called “Old Sober.” From the New York (NY) Herald Tribune, December 26, 1951:

“Tommy Chen of Singapore prefers Yat Ka Mein Soup to k.o. a hangover. It’s made with noodles decorated with hardboiled eggs, roast pork and soy sauce.”

The dish became popular in New Orleans since at least the 1970s. From the New York (NY) Times, April 26, 1977, in a review of the food at a New Orleans jazz festival:

“... and yak-a-mein, explained as a New Orleans black version of a Chinese dish made up of noodles, vegetables, ground meat, a salty brown broth and halves of hard-cooked eggs, a peculiar local nightcap said to ward off hangovers after a night of hard drinking and, therefore, unusually useful in these parts.”

The popularity of ya-ka-mein in New Orleans might come from Shirley Brown Bentley (d. 1996), who was known as the “Yaca Mein Queen.” New Orleans chef Linda Green has called herself “The Ya-Ka-Mein Lady” in the 2000s.


Wikipedia: Yaka mein
Yaka mein (Ya-Ka-Mein, often pronounced Yakamee) is a type of beef noodle soup (牛肉麵, Cantonese: ngaw4-yuk4 min6) found in many Creole and Chinese restaurants in New Orleans.

The soup consists of stewed beef (such as brisket) in beef-based broth served on top of noodles and garnished with half a hard-boiled egg and chopped green onions.[ Cajun or Creole seasoning and chili powder are often added to the broth.

Culture and variations
Yaka mein is sometimes referred to as “Old Sober”, as it is commonly prescribed by locals as a cure for hangovers. Vendors are common at New Orleans second lines. (The dish is also now offered in a more commercial setting at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, along with many other Creole and Cajun specialties.) The soup is well loved by locals but not well known outside of the city and its surrounding region.
(...)
The dish is spelled in innumerable ways, all with phonetic similarities. A non-comprehensive list of these spellings includes:

Yakamein
Yaca mein
Ya ka mein
Yatka mein
Yock a mein
Yetka mein
Yet ca mein
Yet gaw mein
Yat gaw mein
Jakemein
Yaka may
Yakameat
Yakama
Yakamee

22 March 1903, The World (New York, NY), metropolitan section, pg. 4:
Three O’Clock in the Morning at a Chinese Restaurant Uptown.
(...) (Col. 4—ed.)
The bill of fare is not very extensive. Its items are:
Cents
Chop suey.............................................25
Chop suey, with mushrooms...................35
Chicken chop suey.................................50
Yei go main............................................20

9 October 1905, The Journal Shanghai Cafe.
Chinese chop suey...25c
Yet-ca mein...20c

9 October 1905, The Daily Picayune (New Orleans, LA), “Dave’s Digest,” pg. 5, col. 2:
The following bill of fare will be ordered by Charley Toppino from a Chinese restaurant, ...
(...)
Birds’ Nest Soup.
Yot Ko Min. Chop Suey.
(The story is about New York, not New Orleans.—ed.)

6 July 1906, The Inter Ocean (Chicago, IL), “Chinese Baby Is Consecrated to Heathen Gods with Weird Rites,” pg. 1, col. 3:
Then the company gathered about the board and chop suey, yaca mein, yet fung wa, rice wine, and other things tasteful to the Oriental palate were served.

29 November 1908, Pittsburgh (PA) , “The Triumph of Chop Suey, the Chinese Hash.” pt. 7, pg. 1, col. 2:
He does not say so right out, but he rather insinuates it between the cocktail and the yot ko min, which isn’t as bad as it sounds, being merely chicken soup with plain, common, garden noodles within.

10 March 1911, The Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, OR), pg. 19, col. 1 ad:
3 pkgs. Yaka-Mein Egg Noodles 25c
(People’s store.—ed.)

14 July 1911, The Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, OR), pg. 17, col. 3 ad:
4 pkgs. Yaka Mein noodles 25c
(People’s store.—ed.)

29 September 1911, (Baltimore, MD), “Answers,” pg. 5, col. 1:
Publish the recipe for making yacamein. It is a Chinese dish. (...)
READER
We have no recipe for the first dish mentioned.

6 January 1919, San Antonio (TX) Evening News, pg. 6, col. 4 ad:
CHOP SUEY
and Yaka Mein
JAPANESE RESTAURANT
134 Soledad Street

29 April 1921, Fremont (OH) Messender, pg. 8, col. 5 ad:
Yatkamein
PASTIME RESTAURANT

17 May 1925, Tampa (FL) Sunday Tribune, pg. 10-E, col. 3 ad:
MIKADO INN
(...)
Chicken, Pork YAKA MEIN, EGG FOO YONG.

3 September 1926, Beaumont (TX) Daily Journal, pg. 26, col. 1 ad:
Chow Mein, Yaka Mein, Egg Foo Young. To take out.
QUONG TONG CAFE

4 September 1927, The Sunday Oregonian (Portland, OR), “Answers to Correspondents” by Lilian Tingle, sec. 5, pg. 7, col. 4:
Chinese Noodles (Yakamein)—Mix one or more egg whites with 1 tablespoon of water for each egg white; mix in gradually enough flour to make a stiff dough; turn out on a floured board and kneed until smooth and elastic; roll out paper-thin, let dry a little, then roll up and cut in thin strips. Use at once or let dry thoroughly and store for future use.

Fresh-made noodles may be fried at once in deep fat instead of being boiled and dried as in the following recipe:

Yakamein (Wu)—Boil a package of Chinese noodles in chicken stock or salted water; drain and toss in a few tablespoons of hot peanut oil, season to taste with soy and serve with narrow-cut strips of ham, chicken or duck meat, onions, celery, mushrooms and bamboo sprouts, all cut in strips fried in peanut oil and seasoned with soy.

Yakamein (Wang)—Boil a package of Chinese noodles in salted water, drain, rinse in cold water and pat dry between towels; plunge in deep hot oil—using a frying basket or strainer—and cook to a golden brown. Be sure the kettle is not too full and that the noodles are dry. Serve with strips of ham, pork, chicken or duck, onions, mushrooms, Chinese cabbage and sprouted beans, browned and stewed in concentrated chicken or duck stock and flavored with soy.

10 November 1934, Lafayette (IN) Journal and Courier, pg. 3, col. 4 ad:
LAFAYETTE HOTEL
NIGHT CLUB
(...)
All Kinds Chinese and Oriental Foods
Chop Suey, Yockamein, Sandwiches, Soups, Salads

9 August 1935, Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, pg. 10, col. 5 ad:
CHOP SUEY
CHOW MEIN
EGG FOY YUNG
YOCKA MEIN
(Cipriano’s Restaurant.—ed.)

26 December 1951, New York (NY) Herald Tribune, “Early Bird on Broadway” by Hy Gardner, pg. 15, col. 2:
Tommy Chen of Singapore prefers Yat Ka Mein Soup to k.o. a hangover. It’s made with noodles decorated with hardboiled eggs, roast pork and soy sauce. (If you use your noodle in the first place you won’t need these noodles in the second place.)

26 June 1953, Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, “Going Places” by Al Salerno, pg. 7, col. 5:
In the line of real Cantonese dishes are such as the Yat Gaw Mein and lobster.

19 August 1960, The Daily Record (The Stroudsburgs, PA), “What’s on in the Poconos,” pg. 14, col. 6:
BOK TOY AND BEEF, egg rolls, chicken yat gaw mein and hundreds of other Chinese delicacies are at Redder’s.

26 April 1977, New York (NY) Times, “Cooking that Really Beats the Band” by Mimi Sheraton, pg. C45, col. 4:
(Reporting on the food at a New Orleans jazz festival.—ed.)
... and yak-a-mein, explained as a New Orleans black version of a Chinese dish made up of noodles, vegetables, ground meat, a salty brown broth and halves of hard-cooked eggs, a peculiar local nightcap said to ward off hangovers after a night of hard drinking and, therefore, unusually useful in these parts.

30 March 1996, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), pg. 4:
Shirley Brown Bentley, “Yaca Mein Queen,” a retired cook, died Wednesday of congestive heart failure at Memorial Medical Center. She was 69. Ms. Bentley was a lifelong resident of New Orleans.

30 March 2004, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), pg. 4:
Shirley Brown Bentley, “Yaca Mein Queen,” a retired cook, died Wednesday of congestive heart failure at Memorial Medical Center. She was 69. Ms. Bentley was a lifelong resident of New Orleans.

25 April 2002, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), “Events at Jazzfest” by Constance Snow, pg. 2:
Ya-ka-mein ("Old Sober") A New Orleans…

March 2003, New Orleans Magazine (New Orleans, LA), “Hangovers: Seeing straight about treatment” by Brobson Lutz, pg. 34, col. 1:
A soup consumed primarily In New Orleans’ black neighborhoods may well be this city’s best-kept secret for hangover prevention and treatment. Dan Mosley, a Creole master cook and friend, introduced me to yaka mein back when Mardi Gras parades rolled down Orleans Avenue In the French Quarter.

Based on the traditional Chinese dish yat ka mein, which is widely available around the country, yaka mein is the New Orleans-style version and is sometimes called “old sober.” It is rumored to have been popularized after local soldiers returned from the Korean War.

Spellings for yaka mein are as numerous as recipes for gumbo. Food writer Gene Bourg spells it yat gaw main. It is ya cha main at a place on Felicity Street. It was spelled yat-ka-main when sold at the Dejoie family restaurant on Danneel Street.

21 April 2005, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), “Ya-ka-mein feena nay; Second-line staple—Seoul food?—debuts next to Jazzfest’s newest stage” by Judy Walker, pg. F1:
“You watch people fall in love with this. It’s odd to them at first,” said Adam Shipley, music director for Tipitina’s Uptown, who met Green at the parades and did exactly that, fell in love with ya- ka-mein. He has hired Green to make ya-ka-mein for events and benefits at Tipitina’s with Indians and brass bands, including a recent Tipitina’s Foundation Masters Seminar with Legends of the Second Line, a workshop for school kids.

1 May 2005, Boston (MA) Sunday Globe, “Cajun or creole, food’s a draw at jazz fest” by Clea Simon, pg. M6, col. 5:
A neighboring booth would offer a festival first: ya ka mein. Also called “Old Sober,” this noodle and beef dish supposedly came from returning Korean War vets. Nowadays, it’s sold on sidewalk stands during the Mardi Gras season parades, and as its second name implies, “it’s supposed to be a great hangover cure,” says Ochsenschlager.

Science Daily
Hangover remedy examined: Yak-a-mein soup, a.k.a., ‘Old Sober’
Date: April 9, 2013
Source: American Chemical Society (ACS)
One of the Crescent City’s time-honored traditions—a steaming bowl of Yak-a-mein Soup, a.k.a., “Old Sober”—after a night of partying in the French Quarter actually does have a basis in scientific fact. That was the word today from an overview of the chemistry of hangovers, presented as part of the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society.

Louisiana Cookin’
Ms. Linda’s Original 
New Orleans Ya-Ka-Mein
January 1, 2017
Ya-ka-mein is one of New Orleans’ best-kept secrets. The beef noodle soup has been a staple among the city’s African-American community for as long as anyone can remember, but its origin is a mystery.

Often called Old Sober for its restorative qualities, ya-ka-mein simply consists of chopped beef, noodles, green onions, hard-cooked egg, and broth made from a unique blend of spices. While it is typically made with beef, other proteins like pork or shrimp are also common.

Eater—New Orleans
Where to Eat the Best Yak-a-Mein in New Orleans
‘Old Sober’ is an iconic New Orleans noodle soup and hangover cure
by Beth D’Addono Oct 26, 2017, 1:42pm CDT
Ya-ka-mein, a meaty noodle soup known as Old Sober, is New Orleans’ tried and true hangover cure. It’s a crossbreed of Asian and African-American culinary traditions commonly found at corner groceries and takeout shops, and it’s a staple at the neighborhood parades called Second Lines and city festivals. In recent years, it’s also made inroads in white tablecloth restaurants in New Orleans.

Spelled a myriad of different ways (yakamein, ya-ka-mein, yaka meat) , ya-ka-mein is street food, dished up by vendors from the tailgate of pickup trucks as parades pass by. Traditionally made from a combination of beef, cooked eggs, green onions and noodles stewed in a spicy, salty broth, the addition of soy sauce gives this soulful brew an Asian twist.

The New Orleans Advocate (New Orleans, LA)
Old school or hybrid, ya-ka-mein is post-Mardi Gras hangover relief by the quart
BY IAN MCNULTY | FEB 14, 2018 - 6:00 AM
Over the years, Linda Green has served her ya-ka-mein at second-line parades and at Jazz Fest, outside barrooms and inside museums. These days she’s also serving the restorative, sometimes lifesaving soup in coffee cups at Bywater Bakery (3624 Dauphine St., 504-336-3336).
(...)
“People make plans for it,” said Green, a veteran local food vendor who goes by Ms. Linda the Ya-Ka-Mein Lady. 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Monday, October 01, 2018 • Permalink