About Ms. Linda

Winner of the Food Network's Chopped: Pride of New Orleans contest and featured on Anthony Bourdain's Food Network show No Reservations, Linda Green reputedly has the best Ya-Ka-Mein in the United States and is known throughout New Orleans as the "Yakamein Lady."

For the past twenty years, she has sold her Ya-Ka-Mein along Second Line routes, along with running Ms. Linda's Catering, which specializes in New Orleans Soul Food cuisine for all size events.

Ms. Linda has served up her delicious food at festivals and events such as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the Essence Festival and the Crescent City Farmer's Market. These experiences have shaped her as an entrepreneur and brought her notoriety amongst New Orleans' natives and famous entertainers.

Congratulations!

Ms. Linda Wins Chopped
Congratulations Ms. Linda for winning the Food Network's "Chopped: Pride of New Orleans" contest!

Didn't catch the episode? Click here for future airing dates! 

What is Yakamein?

Ya-ka-Mein is a New Orleans dish made from a combination of meat, eggs, green onions and noodles in a spicy, salty broth with an Asian twist by the addition of soy sauce. Black Korean soldiers made Ya-ka-mein in Korea, using the soup to sober up after a fierce day of fighting and drinking. They brought the dish to the states, where it has been a tradition ever since. It was typically served in African-American bars, Second Lines and festivals, referred to as "Old Sober", reflecting its power to alleviate the pain of hangovers.

Linda Green, simply known by many as the “Yaka Mein Lady”, is the most well known parade and festival Ya-ka-mein purveyor.

No Reservations

Tony travels beyond New Orleans and into Cajun Country to find out what sets bayou culture apart. He dines with locals Wendell Pierce and Lolis Elie, partakes in an authentic crawfish boil and ends his trip with a whole-hog roast.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010 19:00

Seeking New Orleans "Street Food" at Jazz Fest

The street food trend is in full bloom in some cities, with everyone from newly-arrived immigrants to well-known chefs serving authentic or elaborate cuisine from carts and food trucks. Alas, New Orleans is not one of those cities. Despite a few noble local efforts, the city just doesn't have that kind of intense and varied food truck scene. But during the seven days of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, we have something that looks a lot like it.

Granted, it's difficult for vendors to land a Jazz Fest berth and, yes, the public must buy festival tickets to get at the spread. But in the end, where the fork hits the mouth, Jazz Fest eating embodies the essential appeal driving the food truck trend. Whether it's a cochon de lait po-boy, crab-covered trout Baquet or zucchini and crawfish bisque, this is delicious food engineered for rapid service and easy consumption on the go -- in this case while walking from stage to stage. It's not hard to imagine the success some enterprising cooks might have by taking Jazz Fest hits to the street year-round.

A few Jazz Fest vendors showcase street foods that have long been popular around New Orleans. For instance, the hot tamales, pralines and palm-sized sweet potato pies sold at the Fair Grounds are all sidewalk essentials of the homespun street cuisine offered by the vendors who trail many second-line parades. These Sunday afternoon scenes also are home turf for Linda Green, better known to the second-line crowds as "the ya ka mein lady."

From her blue Dodge pickup, she sells foam cups of this curious, economical, faintly Asian noodle soup, made with bits of beef, lots of salty bouillon, boiled egg, green onions and spaghetti. Green says generations of home cooks, including her late mother Shirley, have supplemented incomes or raised cash for causes by peddling ya ka mein at local bars. Green brought the family recipe to Jazz Fest in 2005, and she also prepares a vegetarian version.

Another classic New Orleans street food served at Jazz Fest got its start from a tragedy more than a century ago. In 1901, Sam Cortese was 12 when he was run over by a streetcar and lost his legs below the knees. His grandson Ron Kotteman says the young amputee was soon forced out of school, so he took up the family business of selling vegetables in the street. He sometimes added Italian-style taffy, leftovers from family celebrations, and he noticed how well these simple candies sold. By 1915, he built a mule-drawn cart from which he could both make and sell the product he dubbed Roman chewing candy.

Kotteman left college to take over the family business when his grandfather died in 1969. He's been vending at Jazz Fest since 1973, and he and his mule Ada can be found driving the same 95-year-old cart in Uptown, selling his sugary, tooth-testing candy sticks from the shade of various St. Charles Avenue oaks.

Spaghetti noodle soup and Italian taffy are not quite as sexy as the Korean-fusion tacos and gourmet cupcakes from other cities' wildly diverse street food scene. But they are essential foods of the New Orleans streets, and during the next two Jazz Fest weekends these streets happen to wend through the Fair Grounds.

Additional Info

  • Publication Date: Thursday, 29 April 2010
  • Author: Ian McNulty
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