Ya-Ka Mein (aka "Old Sober")

StillWild avatar
By Donna Graffagnino
from Bayou Country, LA

Pronounced Yock-a-MAY, and often called "Yock" by locals, this fragrant concoction is typically served at African-American bars, Second Lines and festivals. It's also called “Old Sober” in New Orleans because of its divine powers to physically reverse the toxins consumed the night prior as a result of a night on the town. Besides its healing abilities, it is mindbogglingly delicious. Anthony Bourdain visited the Ya-Ka Mein Lady herself, Linda Green, and praised her heavenly concoction. Continued below.

serves 16
prep time 10 Min
cook time 3 Hr
method Stove Top


  • 3-4 lb
    beef roast (chuck, round, rump)
  • 4-5 qt
  • 2 Tbsp
    beef base (better than bouillon)
  • 1 tsp
    seasoned salt
  • 1-2 tsp
    cajun seasoning - to taste (tony chachere's)
  • 1 tsp
    onion powder
  • 4 Tbsp
    canola or vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb
    spaghetti, cooked as directed
  • 8
    hard boiled eggs, peeled and halved
  • 2
    green onions, sliced thin
  • soy sauce, hot sauce to taste
  • worcestershire sauce & ketchup (optional)

How To Make

  • 1
    Fill a stockpot halfway with water. Add the beef base, seasoning salt, Cajun seasoning, onion powder, oil, pinch of salt and couple turns of the pepper grinder to the pot and whisk to mix up. Place the meat in the stockpot - the water should cover the meat plus about an inch. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 2 to 3 hours, or until the meat is tender and begins to fall apart.
  • 2
    Remove the beef from the broth and using forks, pull it apart and return the shredded beef to the broth. Add salt and pepper, taste and adjust seasonings. Hold the soup over low until needed.
  • 3
    Meanwhile, boil the eggs, cool and peel them; set aside. Cook the spaghetti noodles according to package directions.
  • 4
    To assemble the soup, place a serving of spaghetti noodles in the bottom of a bowl. Use a slotted spoon to extract a serving of the shredded beef and add that on top of the noodles. Ladle the hot broth over the noodles and beef and garnish with green onions and half of a hard-boiled egg.
  • 5
    Dress it up with a few dashes of soy sauce, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Some folks also like to also add a bit of ketchup to theirs.
  • 6
    SLOW COOKER DIRECTIONS You can also prepare the meat in the crockpot - a good idea if you want to put this on before bedtime in the wee hours of post-Mardi Gras morning! Put the roast and seasonings in the crockpot cover and cook on high for 1 hour, then on low for 6 to 8 hours longer, or, cook on low for up to 10 hours, until meat is falling apart. Boil the noodles, eggs and assemble as above.
  • 7
    HISTORY, cont. Ya-Ka Mein is a N.O. dish made from a mix of noodles, meat, green onions and hard-boiled egg in a spicy salty broth with an Asian twist from soy sauce. Some dispute the origins of Old Sober in the N.O. area but it's believed that Yakamein was introduced when Chinese workers relocated there from south Louisiana plantations. Chinese immigrants were brought in alongside African slaves to work the railroads in the mid-1800's, and again later when more immigrants arrived to work the sugar plantations in Louisiana following emancipation.
  • 8
    The Chinese population settled into a section of town on South Liberty, near a newly established Chinese Mission. Soon shops, hand laundries, food markets, and eateries catering to the Chinese population expanded from the Mission and into the 1100 block of Tulane, creating a geographical hub for the Chinese community and what would become known as New Orleans Chinatown. It is believed that Yakamein grew out of this time in history.
  • 9
    If you're lucky enough to find the Ya-Ka Mein Lady serving this curbside in a local neighborhood, the broth is always ladled into a large styrofoam cup, then drained and repeated several times so that the hot broth will heat the cold noodles. It is then topped with half a hard-boiled egg and sprinkled with green onions. Here is a recipe so that you can have your own hangover cure on hand for a morning after a night to remember – even if you can’t.