Long before ramen fried rice hacks using Cup Noodles were making the rounds on TikTok, the city of Kobe in western Japan had its own version known as Sobameshi. It's believed that Sobameshi, a rice and ramen noodle dish, was created in the 1950s when a factory worker asked a shop that specializes in yakisoba to add some leftover rice he had to his yakisoba to bulk it up.
It soon became a popular, secret menu item that regulars would request, and to make the noodles blend well with the rice, the chef would use his spatulas to chop the noodles up as he stir-fried them with the rice.
In my version, I like to use instant ramen noodles because they're easy to crumble into the perfect lengths and don't need to be boiled separately. Combined with a generous helping of vegetables and protein, this quick meal makes for the perfect weekday comfort food.
Why This Recipe Works?
- The springy texture of the rice with the slippery texture of the noodles provides a fun contrast that's more than the sum of its parts.
- By crumbling instant ramen noodles, you can make this dish in one pan in less time than it would take to boil, chop, and stir-fry the noodles separately.
- The sauce combines Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, and oyster sauce to create a balance of spice, tanginess, sweetness, and umami, similar to the traditional Japanese seasoning used for yakisoba using ingredients that are available almost anywhere.
Table of contents
- Noodles - Sobameshi is traditionally made by chopping up yakisoba on a teppan grill, but making the noodle stir-fry to make this dish is impractical. Unflavored instant ramen (the bricks of curly noodles in cheap packs of ramen) have been flash fried at the factory, so they just need to be rehydrated. Because they're brittle straight out of the pack, it's possible to crumble them up, which avoids the need to chop up the noodles. Just be sure you're using flash-fried and not air-dried noodles, or this method will not work.
- Rice - In Japan, we mainly eat short-grain Japanese rice. It has a more sticky and springy texture than its long-grain relatives, so it's important to use leftover rice that has had a chance for the starch to retrograde, or it will clump up and be hard to stir-fry. That's why I recommend using day-old leftover rice that's been refrigerated.
- Worcestershire sauce - Yakisoba sauce is a thicker and sweeter version of Worcestershire sauce with more umami. This is why I use Worcestershire sauce as the base for my Sobameshi seasoning.
- Ketchup - Ketchup adds fruity sweetness to the sauce along with additional tartness and spices.
- Oyster sauce - The oyster sauce contributes salt and umami to the sauce. It won't taste quite as good, but if you'd rather not use oyster sauce you could substitute 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of sugar.
- Black pepper - Black pepper isn't a part of traditional Sobameshi recipes, but I like the extra spice it adds. Ground white pepper will also work.
- Oil - Use a neutral oil such as grape seed, rice bran or canola oil. If you want to give the dish more flavor you could also use sesame oil.
- Vegetables - The most common vegetables to add to Sobameshi are cabbage, carrots, and onions, but there's a lot of flexibility here. Any bright and flavorful veggies that will cook through relatively quickly will work here.
- Meat - Adding meat contributes protein and umami to this carb-heavy dish, but it's optional. I used ground pork, but other ground meats, thinly sliced pork belly, bacon, or sausage are all great options.
- Garnishes - I used chopped green onions and beni shōga (red ginger) to garnish my Sobameshi, but there are a lot of possibilities here, including aonori (green nori), sesame seeds, and fried garlic.
How to Make Sobameshi
To prepare the instant ramen, place the brick of noodles into a zipper bag and seal it shut. Then, start from a corner and crumble the noodles into rice-sized pieces with your fingers by pressing them. You can also do this in the bag the noodles came in before opening it.
For the rice, get your hands wet and crumble up any clumps to separate the individual grains of rice.
Make the sauce for the Sobameshi by whisking together the Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, oyster sauce, and black pepper.
I recommend using a large non-stick frying pan to make the ramen fried rice, as the extra surface area helps keep the temperature consistent. Heat the pan over medium heat, and then add the oil and vegetables and stir-fry until the cabbage is a vibrant green. The traditional way to do this is with two wide spatulas, chopping and tossing the ingredients as you stir-fry them, but you can also do this by stirring and tossing the pan.
Add the ground pork and chop it up with your spatula(s) to crumble it up. Once the pork is mostly cooked, add the water and crumbled ramen and stir-fry the mixture until no water is left in the pan.
Turn up the heat to high, add the rice, and stir-fry the mixture until it's heated through and the ingredients start to brown around the edges.
Pour the sauce evenly over the ramen fried rice and toss it all together until it's uniform in color. Plate the Sobameshi and sprinkle with chopped scallions and beni shōga (red pickled ginger) for garnish.
Serve it With
Sobameshi is served in casual diners that cook on steel griddles called teppan. That's why it can also be served alongside other dishes cooked on a teppan like okonomiyaki. It's hearty enough to make for a quick lunch on its own, but if I'm serving this for dinner, I'll usually pair it with a protein like my ginger pork, chicken karaage, or tofu teriyaki.
Other Japanese Rice & Noodle Recipes
- Yakimeshi (Japanese Fried Rice)
- Tantanmen (Spicy Ramen Noodles)
- Curry Fried Rice
- Takikomi Gohan (Japanese Pilaf)
- Yaki Udon
- 1 pack instant ramen noodles (about 100 grams)
- 200 grams cooked short-grain rice
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 100 grams cabbage (chopped into ¼-inch squares)
- 50 grams onion
- 40 grams carrots (chopped into ¼-inch slices)
- 120 grams ground pork
- ⅓ cup water
- scallions (chopped for garnish)
- beni shōga (red pickled ginger)
- Put 1 pack instant ramen noodles in a sealable bag and use your fingers to crumble them up into rice-sized pieces.
- Get your hands wet and crumble 200 grams cooked short-grain rice so that each grain is separate.
- To make the sauce, add 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon ketchup, 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper to a small bowl and stir to combine.
- In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 100 grams cabbage, 50 grams onion, and 40 grams carrots and stir-fry until the cabbage is a vibrant green.
- Add 120 grams ground pork and crumble it up with a spatula (or two).
- When the pork is mostly cooked, add ⅓ cup water and crumbled ramen noodles and cook while stirring until no liquid is left in the pan.
- Add the rice and turn up the heat to high. Stir-fry the mixture until the rice has heated through and it starts to brown.
- Drizzle the Sobameshi sauce over the rice and noodles, and then toss everything together to finish.
- Plate and garnish the ramen fried rice with scallions and beni shōga.