Last New Year's we went to New Orleans and somehow found ourselves hungover. Yakamein, as the legend goes, is also known as "Old Sober," and luckily it was already on our list of unique regional foods to try. We headed to Manchu Food Store & Chinese Kitchen, a unique Chinese takeout restaurant/bodega in Treme. The magic elixer was a variation on the traditional beef broth, using chicken stock instead, and also containing ham, dark meat chicken, and shrimp instead of beef. It was a true representation of making do with what you've got. You can make do at home too, and anyone with a halfway decently stocked pantry or party leftovers probably has these ingredients on hand, which is helpful when moving as little from the couch as possible is the name of the game.
Yakamein Makes 4 servings
2 Quarts chicken stock 1 Cup cubed dark meat chicken (about 2 medium chicken thighs, or you can use the meat of chicken wings) 1 Cup cubed ham steak (About 1/3 - 1/2 a pre-cooked ham steak, or leftover ham from a party) 1 Cup mini shrimp (or you can use leftover shrimp cocktail) 1 small onion, cut into quarters 3 cloves garlic, crushed 1/3 LB spaghetti 2 Tablespoons ketchup 2 Tablespoons soy sauce 3 chopped scallions (cleaned, trimmed, and sliced into thin discs) 1 hard boiled egg per person
Start by poaching your chicken (if you don't have cooked leftovers). In a large saucepan add 1 quart of chicken stock, 2 cups of water, the onion and the garlic. Trim the chicken of excess fat but leave the skin on. Place it in the pot, bring it to a boil, and cook it for about 20 minutes. You don't want to overcook it but make sure the juices are running clear.
Remove the thighs from the pot and strain the solids out of the stock (including the onion and garlic). Place the stock back in the pot and set aside.
Remove the skin from your chicken thighs and cube up the meat. Set aside.
Take your ham steak and in a cast iron or heavy pan sear each side on high heat until it browns (about 3 minutes). Cube the ham and set it aside.
Fill a separate pot 3/4 full with water and place over high heat. Once boiling, add a palmful of salt and your spaghetti. Cook until al dente and drain. If you want to you can reserve the cooking liquid and use it to boil your eggs (cook them at a boil for 5 minutes, let sit in the hot water for another 5, then run them under cold water and peel the shells off).
Now it's time to bring it all together. In your original pot with the chicken stock add your other quart of chicken stock, chicken, ham, spaghetti, ketchup, and soy sauce. Put it over medium heat and stir everything together, bringing it back to temperature. Right before you're ready to serve it toss in the scallions and shrimp. If the shrimp aren't cooked, keep the pot over medium heat and stir everything for a couple of minutes until they turn white.
Add one hard boiled egg per bowl and ladle in the yakamein. It's best eaten piping hot with a fork (you can slurp the broth from the bowl while you decide what trashy TV to watch next).