One of the truisms of this pandemic is that diners load up on carbs during times of anxiety and stress — which, one supposes, also means that in times of extraordinary stress, double the carbs are required.
That’s at least part of the appeal of Masabaga’s latest offering: yakisoba pan, a kind of Japanese stir-fried noodle sandwich — a staple of Japanese convenience stores and shonen anime. In the Bay Area, however, you would have been hard-pressed to find one on a restaurant menu before chef Masa Sasaki started serving the sandwiches last month at his Japanese-leaning Oakland burger shop.
For Sasaki, it’s a fun, nostalgic dish that conjures up memories of his childhood in Japan. “When the young kids get hungry, they need a lot of carbs,” he says. “I think every Japanese boy likes yakisoba pan.”
Carb enthusiasts won’t find it difficult to see the appeal: Again, this is a noodle sandwich: stir-fried noodles get tossed in a tangy, savory sauce with a distinct hit of Worcestershire, topped with mayonnaise and red pickled ginger, and then loaded onto a hot dog bun. Voila: Your slippery, slurpable carbs and soft, fluffy carbs, all in one. The sandwiches are technically categorized as a snack food, Sasaki says — but one that’s meant to really fill you up.
Sasaki’s version, meanwhile, is a super-premium version of the cellophane-wrapped kind you might find at a Tokyo 7-Eleven. The convenience store sandwiches tend to be very small, Sasaki explains, and they usually don’t have much meat. But the yakisoba pan at Masabaga is a full-on meal. The noodles are loaded with slices of grilled pork belly, with half a hot dog added for good measure. There’s also some kick from the Sriracha mayo and a delicious zip of ginger that just barely keeps the whole thing from feeling too heavy.
Even better, at $12 the yakisoba pan is Masabaga’s least expensive sandwich — and easily the most filling, and the best deal on the menu. Order online for pickup or delivery.