Sunday, February 5, 2023

Ya-Ka-Mein in New Orleans

YKM-intro-PHOTO-300x199This week’s Featured oral history project is hot out of the pot: Ya-Ka-Mein in New Orleans.
Ya-ka-mein. Yakimi. Yet-ca-mein. Yak e mein. Yacamein. Ya-ka-meat. Yaka mein. Just to call out a few of the ways you might encounter the protein-and-noodle soup spelled around New Orleans. To date, there is no standard spelling, even for the media, in large part because little has been recorded about the dish and its place at the New Orleans table until quite recently.
This is not to say that ya-ka-mein is a newcomer. On the contrary, as you will discover in these interviews, ya-ka-mein has been a staple in the city’s African American households for generations.
Meet Maurice Haynes of Magazine Deli, where ya-ka-mein is the kind of “quick, cheap dish” you whip up on the weekend from ingredients—probably including some leftovers—already on hand. For others, like Lucinda Mitchell of the former Mitchell’s Fruit Stand, making ya-ka-mein at home is a more deliberate endeavor. Chip Flannagan has never made ya-ka-mein at home. A Caucasian, he’s the executive chef at Ralph’s on the Park, a fine dining restaurant where a ya-ka-mein made with pork belly cooked sous-vide hits white tablecloths alongside other haute offerings like duck confit and lamb crèpinettes. Then there is Linda Green, who brought her ya-ka-mein to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, where it reaches a broad, multicultural audience.
As far as we can see—and that would be at least as far as Linda Green’s second line route travels—ya-ka-mein is only gaining steam.
–Lindsey Kate Reynolds, Southern Foodways Alliance

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