Search
| ,
| RSS | |

SECTIONS:

 

Arts · Politics · Crime
· Sports · Food ·
· Opinion · NOLA ·
Lagniappe

 
THE

Defender Picks

 

MARDI

March 28th

Book Reading: Elizabeth Pearce

Garden District Book Shop, 6PM

From her new book "Drink Dat New Orleans: A Guide to the Best Cocktail Bars, Dives, & Speakeasies"

 

Spring Publishing Camp

Tubby & Coo's Mid-City Book Shop, 7PM

Book publishing workshop

 

Gabby Douglas

Dillrd University, 7PM

Olympic gymnast talks fame and fitness

 

Laelume

The Carver, 7PM

World soul jazz music

 

Laughter Without Borders

Loyola University, 7PM

Clowns for a cause, to benefit Syrian refugees

 

Tuesday Night Haircuts

St. Roch Tavern, 8PM

Tonight: beer, haircuts, karaoke

 

Thinkin' With Lincoln 

Bayou Beer Garden, 8PM

Outdoor trivia

 

Water Seed

Blue Nile, 9PM

Interstellar future funk

 

Stanton Moore Trio

Snug Harbor, 10PM

Galactic drummer’s side project - also at 8PM

MERCREDI

March 29th

Response: Artists in the Park

Botanical Garden, 10AM

Art exhibit and sale en plein air

 

Studio Opening Party

Alex Beard Studio, 5PM

Drinks, food, painting to celebrate the artist's studio opening

 

Sippin' in the Courtyard

Maison Dupuy Hotel, 5PM

Fancy foods, music by jazz great Tim Laughlin, and event raffle

 

Work Hard, Play Hard

Benachi House & Gardens, 6PM

Southern Rep's fundraising dinner and party 

 

Lecture: Patrick Smith

New Canal Lighthouse, 6PM

Coastal scientist discusses his work

 

Pelicans vs. Dallas Mavericks

Smoothie King Center, 7PM

The Birds and the Mavs go head to head

 

Drag Bingo

Allways Lounge, 7PM

Last game planned in the Allways's popular performance & game night

 

They Blinded Me With Science: A Bartender Science Fair

2314 Iberville St., 7:30PM

Cocktails for a cause

 

Brian Wilson 

Saenger Theatre, 8PM

The Beach Boy presents "Pet Sounds" 

 

Movie Screening: Napoleon Dynamite

Catahoula Hotel, 8PM

Free drinks if you can do his dance. Vote for Pedro!

 

Blood Jet Poetry Series

BJs in the Bywater, 8PM

Poetry with Clare Welsh and Todd Cirillo

 

Horror Shorts

Bar Redux, 9PM

NOLA's Horror Films Fest screens shorts

 

A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie

Howlin Wolf, 10PM

Bronx hip hop comes south

 

JEUDI

March 30th

Aerials in the Atrium

Bywater Art Lofts, 6PM

Live art in the air

 

Ogden After Hours

Ogden Museum, 6PM

Feat. Mia Borders

 

Pete Fountain: A Life Half-Fast

New Orleans Jazz Museum, 6PM

Exhibit opening on the late Pete Fountain

 

Big Freedia Opening Night Mixer

Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes and Culture, 6PM

Unveiling of Big Freedia's 2018 Krew du Viewux costume

 

An Edible Evening

Langston Hughes Academy, 7PM

8th annual dinner party in the Dreamkeeper Garden

 

RAW Artists Present: CUSP

The Republlic, 7PM

Immersive pop-up gallery, boutique, and stage show

 

Electric Swandive, Hey Thanks, Something More, Chris Schwartz

Euphorbia Kava Bar, 7PM

DIY rock, pop, punk show

 

The Avett Brothers

Saenger Theatre, 7:30PM

Americana folk-rock

 

Stand-Up NOLA

Joy Theater, 8PM

Comedy cabaret

 

Stooges Brass Band

The Carver, 9PM

NOLA brass all-stars

 

Wolves and Wolves and Wolves and Wolves

Gasa Gasa, 9PM

Feat. Burn Like Fire and I'm Fine in support

 

Fluffing the Ego

Allways Lounge, 10:30PM

Feat. Creep Cuts and Rory Danger & the Danger Dangers

 

Fast Times Dance Party

One Eyed Jacks, 10:30PM

80s dance party

 


Bowl of Mystery

Sifting Through the Clouded History of Ya Ka Mein



Staring down into a pot full of brown liquid, the smell of soy sauce fills the air. Spaghetti noodles, beef, and green onions absorbing the broth. While beginning to spoon out the soup, a hard-boiled egg bobs like a buoy in the muddy waters of the Mississippi.

 

At the risk of losing a true experience, this writer passed on the egg. But then the mixture of the soup hit the tongue with a surprising gratification.

 

The contents of the bowl in question is ya-ka-mein. A New Orleans dish that has been around for decades, many remain unsure of where it came from, or how it started.

 

For most locals the pronunciation is ya-ka-meat, though the "t" is rarely heard. So it comes out sounding like ya-ka-mee. Non-natives tend to pronounce it as ya-ka-mein, which gives the locals a laugh.

 

A much easier nom de guerre for the dish is Old Sober. This name refers to the claims that this is the best hangover cure usually prepared at the end of Carnival season to usher in Lent.

 

Like the broth,  the origin of the dish is murky. But it boils down to two different scenarios.

 

In the first, African American vets from the Korean War brought back the dish after having a taste of the food in the Pacific and recreated it with local ingredients.

 

In the other, Chinese workers came to New Orleans to help build the railroads, and the construction crew cooks had to satisfy both the African and Chinese workers.

 

Most people seem to agree with the former statement of the origins, but it may never be validated.

 

Still, the latter statement seems to hold some weight as well simply because of where most ya-ka-mein can be found in the city.

 

Lacking seafood and traditional Creole flair, some might question the validity of ya-ka-mein as a New Orleans dish. But, like most New Orleans dishes, it is a mixture of different cultures blended to make something new.

 

New Orleans band Galactic understands this well. They named their eighth studio album Ya Ka May because it blends two very different genres, R&B/soul and sissy bounce. Ya-ka-mein is a blend of Chinese and African-American cultures.

 

Chinese restaurants around New Orleans serve ya-ka-mein with a slightly different spelling of the dish, however the most common place remains neighborhood corner stores.

 

The standard barer is Manchu on N. Broad, which has been deemed the best place to get a good bowl of ya-ka-mein. Besides the corner store, the next best place to get ya-ka-mein is from street vendors. Street ya-ka-mein usually has a homecooked feel and taste.

 

"I tried ya-ka-mein from other places and it was never to my liking so I added some secret spices to make it my own that I only know about," said Donna Bentley, of ya-ka-mein purveyor Bentley's Meals on Wheels. "My husband doesn't even know what I put in there. "

 

Most people come to Bentley's Meals on Wheels specifically for Mrs. Bentley's ya-ka-mein but it is only served on Tuesday nights and Sundays.

 

Bentley said the cast and crew of a certain HBO series has taken a liking to Mrs. Bentley's ya-ka-mein. " They usually wipe me out," Mrs. Bentley said of the Treme crew.

 

The Bentley's Meals on Wheels is usually located in front of Bullet's Sports Bar and Lounge on A.P. Tureaud Ave.

 

Ya-ka-mein is actually more associated with street food than anything else. Usually found at second lines, it received a more mainstream introduction when served at the first Jazz Fest held in Congo Square in the 70s. After the second year it was no longer offered. But, in 2005, the Ya-ka-mein Lady Linda Green brought it back to the Fest.

 

Though its inclusion at Jazz Fest makes it more accessible, the dish is still is on the verge of distinction. 

 

Many corner stores have not come back after the storm, and probably will not for many reasons. There has been an increase in street vendors who specialize in ya-ka-mein, but they are sometimes hard to find.

 

With that being the case, ya-ka-mein is returning to the days where recipes and preparation methods are passed down orally. It can be found in some cookbooks and on websites but, mainly, this is a dish that is verbally passed down through the generations.

 

Like many other New Orleans dishes, the recipe for ya-ka-mein differs depending on the cook. But it is not considered true ya-ka-mein to most if it does not include the hard-boiled egg. The egg is usually cut in half and placed on top or in the middle.

 

Most ya-ka-mein is served with the ingredients mixed together, but when it is home cooked people tend to let others make it to their liking. The noodles and broth are served in a bowl while the me at, seasoning, egg, and vegetables are added to taste.

 

Slowly on the verge of dying out, the disappearance of ya-ka-mein would represent yet another major loss for New Orleans if it disappeared. The history of ya-ka-mein may be a mystery, but this dish should not be.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
If you have your own website, enter its address here and we will link to it for you. (please include http://).
eg. http://www.kirkdesigns.co.uk
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
view counter
Follow Us on Facebook
view counter
view counter
view counter
view counter
view counter
view counter
view counter
French Market
view counter


Contributors:

Evan Z.E. Hammond, Dead Huey, Andrew Smith

Listings Editor


Photographers


Art Director:

Michael Weber, B.A.

Editor:

Alexis Manrodt

Published Daily

Editor Emeritus:

B. E. Mintz

Editor Emeritus



Stephen Babcock