Cooking yakisoba these days is about the quest for the perfect sauce. I've come up with some pretty good versions (just check the index for some past attempts) but none of them quite have that beefy, just a bit greasy goodness I remember from Dosanko.
Walking down the aisles of the Asian supermarket is perilous for a sauce lover. There are bottles and bottles of all kinds of sauces, all gleaming with a come-hither luster. All of them promise wonderful meals: savory meat and noodles, lightly stir-fried veggies gleaming with just the lightest veneer of sauce to add flavor to the dish without drowning it. Who knows which bottle holds the secret? They all whisper their promises, while the cold voice of the conscience admonishes that homemade sauces without preservatives are really the best. The temptations increase in the Japanese aisle, where the sauces are not only tempting in their own right, but often come in beautifully designed little vials that would not be out of place in a well-appointed wizard's cabinet of potions.
So I thought to myself, 'Why not try a bottled yakisoba sauce? Maybe it'll hold the perfect sauce secret.' I came home with a bottle of Otafuku Yakisoba Sauce, which also advertises itself as a suitable garnish for stir-fried veggies, hamburgers, noodles and fried rice. The lengthy ingredient list includes some potentially scary stuff (high fructose corn syrup, MSG), extracts from much of the animal kingdom (oysters, chickens, pigs, fish, scallops, shrimp and yeast into the bargain) and fruits and vegetables (everything from peach to garlic).
I followed the recipe on the bottle wrapper (yes, this is a bottle that comes in a plastic wrapper). Due to a glitch in preparation, I wound up with both chicken breast and shrimp ready to be cooked that night. Mixing meats like that is more of a southeast Asian thing, but I decided to go with it. Maybe it would lead to a yakisoba as big as the Ritz. I doubled my allotment of chukasoba noodles to make sure the proportions of meat to noodles were correct.
I stir-fried the shrimp, chicken and some sliced button mushrooms and onions in a bit of vegetable oil about five minutes, then added the cooked chukasoba and heated it through. Then I added a third of a cup of the yakisoba sauce and cooked everything for about three more minutes. I served it out onto plate and tucked in.
It wasn't bad, but it left me a little disappointed. I'm starting to think that one of the components of my perfect yakisoba sauce is beef juice, so the absence of beef from this yakisoba posed a problem. The bottled sauce itself had a sort of sweet-and-sour fruity note that can be found in things such as Chik-fil-A's polynesian sauce. So there I was, eating a home-cooked meal and thinking of fast food. Not the desired impression, to put it mildly. Then again, I probably eat more fast food than I should. It wasn't bad, it made great leftovers and a "brown-bag" lunch for a couple of days, but I think I prefer my fumbling homemade attempts at the perfect yakisoba sauce. Cook and learn.
Not that that means I'll ever be immune to the siren song of the sauce bottles at the Asian supermarket.