Yakisoba Pan Is The Japanese Noodle Sandwich You Need To Try

Who says you can't eat pasta with your hands? A combination of the savory comfort of a good noodle stir-fry with the hands-on convenience of finger food, yakisoba pan is one of the most classic urban comfort foods found in Japanese cuisine. Translated directly as "fried noodle bread," the yakisoba pan is exactly what it sounds like: a hearty scoop of yakisoba noodles served in an oblong bread bun.

This noodle hot dog might sound eccentric or even somewhat unappealing to some, but it's been around since long before the advent of the ramen burger trend and is one of the most representative examples of sozai pan, a Japanese food genre comprised exclusively of bread with fillings or toppings that would usually be eaten as their own dishes. While it's definitely a more casual type of food that you won't find offered at an izakaya or even a soba restaurant, yakisoba pan is a classic, must-try finger food for any fan of Japanese cuisine, stir-fried noodles, or both.

Yakisoba pan rose to fame decades ago

Despite having a great deal in common with the chow mein burger that was invented in the 1920s — and yakisoba being derived from chow mein itself — the yakisoba pan seems to be an independent phenomenon that happened in Japan. The majority consensus is that yakisoba pan was invented in the 1950s in a diner, though there are a few conflicting accounts regarding the specifics of how yakisoba pan came to be. Some say that a diner suggested that patrons try eating yakisoba in a koppe pan — a plain bun — while others claim that a customer requested the yakisoba and bread to be combined.

Regardless of which side the suggestion came from, yakisoba pan has since become a classic and quintessential part of Japanese comfort food. Its main cultural perception in Japan is as a nostalgic lunch item often made in high school cafeterias; rushing to grab a yakisoba pan from the student canteen is a popular recurring trope you'll see in basically any Japanese media involving schools and students as protagonists. In real life, you'll also find it offered in most convenience stores in Japan next to other popular sozai pan like curry pan, chicken pan, and more.

How to make yakisoba pan

Outside of Japanese convenience stores, you might find that the only reliable way of trying yakisoba pan is to make it yourself. Thankfully, there's really no hard and fast rule as to what kind of yakisoba or what kind of bread you need to make a yakisoba pan. Nearly anything goes, and the simplest way to try it is to buy some yakisoba for yourself and load it into a hot dog bun. If you want an experience closer to the one you'll find in Japan, however, you'll probably want to go for a very simplistic yakisoba with minimal ingredients and a soft milk bread.

The yakisoba part is easy to make if you have some chow mein or instant ramen noodles, a bit of cabbage, and Japanese Worcestershire sauce — no need for extra protein or fancier vegetables. The bread is a bit more complicated depending on the diversity of food in your area: What's usually used in yakisoba pan is called koppe pan, a milk bread bun used as a base for many other kinds of stuffed bread treats. The easiest solution would be to pick up some plain milk buns from your closest Asian bakery. If you don't have one nearby, you can grab any East Asian milk bread recipe and shape your bread into oblong buns before popping it in the oven for some easy homemade koppe pan. All that's left is to stuff the yakisoba in the bread and enjoy!