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Chow Mein Ultimate Guide

All you need to know to make an easy, yummy and healthy Chow Mein at home

by Shirley
Best Chow Mein {Easy Yummy Healthy}

Chow Mein or Chinese fried noodles is a traditional quick easy everyday home cooking in China, which has also become one the most popular Chinese restaurant take-out food. This Chinese Stir-Fried Noodle ultimate guide will explain all you need to know in order to cook a deliciously easy and healthy Chow Mein.

Freshly Made Chow Mein in the Wok

What is Chow Mein?

Chow Mein is Cantonese phonetics for Stir Fried Noodles. “Chow” Or “Chao” {炒} per Roman pinyin systems, which is widely adopted in mainland China, means fry or stir fry. “Mein” or “Mian” {面} means noodles.

Chinese Fried Noodles is a popular one pot meal. To make Chow Mein, you basically stir fry cooked noodles with vegetables. It is also quite common to add pre-cooked chicken, pork, beef, or shrimps to the mix to complete the meal.

chow mein ingredients

Chow Mein Frequently Asked Questions:

What’s Different Chow Mein vs. Lo Mein?

The difference is all about whether you stir-fry noodles together with the rest of the ingredients or not.

If you do, then it is Chow Mein. Usually, the noodles are drier and stiffer because of stir-frying. People also use more soy sauce, especially the restaurant version, which makes Chow Mein looks darker.

If you only stir-fry ingredients without noodles first, and then turn off the heat and mix in the cooked noodles, then it is Lo Mein. Therefore, the noodles in Lo Mein are usually in noodles’ original color and are softer. People typically use less soy sauce, thus the color is lighter compared to Chow Mein.

Is Chow Mein Healthy?

It can be, especially if you use homemade noodles, add a variety of vegetables and not use excessive soy sauce.

chow mein

Can I make a vegetarian or vegan version?

Absolutely! Choose a vegetable cooking oil such as canola oil, avocado oil, or grapeseed oil for stir-fry. Drizzle a splash of sesame oil toward the end to enhance the flavor.

What’s in a Chow Mein?

Ingredients for Chow Mein usually include below key items:

  1. Cooked Noodles
  2. Fat or Oil
  3. Vegetable Assortment
  4. Dark and Light Soy Sauce
  5. The Optional Pre-cooked Protein of Your Choice

What are my noodle options?

If you have time to make either homemade egg noodles or plain noodles in advance, they are excellent choices.

You can also choose from a wide variety of store-bought dry noodles including egg noodles or Yang Chun noodles. These days I also become a fan of these organic spaghetti, when cooked right, they are wonderful for making Chinese Fried Noodles or Noodle Salad.

authentic Chinese Chow Mein

How to cook noodles for a firm bite spongy texture?

One important thing to keep in mind is that the optimally cooked noodles for Chow Mein need to be moist but have a spongy texture so they can better handle the stir-fry process without getting either dried out or mushy.

The key to moist while spongy noodles are to boil a big pot of water for making a relatively small amount of noodles. The less time used to cook the noodle, the better the noodle tastes. Check out how to cook dry pasta or noodles for more details.

How to pick an optimally balanced vegetable assortment?

We need two types of vegetables: flavoring herbs and additional complementary vegetables.

Flavoring herbs is to provide a unique aroma and taste to the noodles. Onion, green onion, leek, garlic leaves, and cilantro are all excellent choices.

Complementary vegetables are to supplement the texture or color of the food or provide additional vegetables for a healthy meal.

Mung bean sprouts are among my most recommended must-have item. They look like noodles and can easily blend in. Meanwhile, they help separate noodles from sticking to each other and add a hint of crunchy texture. Peas are optional, but they contribute to the additional texture too.

Green leafy vegetables such as kale or bok choy are wonderful choices.

Something that contributes to the color appealing is also important. Carrot slices serve just like that.

authentic chow mein

I do not have a vegetable assortment, can I still make a tasty Chow Mein?

No problem. It works as long as you have either green onions, onion, leek or cilantro.

Do you like Chinese Style Stir Fry Noodles? Make sure you check out how to make one quick, easy and creative at home here.

Do you like healthy tasty “Better Than Takeouts”? Make sure you check out below:

Best Chow Mein {Easy Yummy Healthy}

Chow Mein Recipe

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Chow Mein or Chinese fried noodles is a traditional quick easy everyday home cooking in China, which has also become one the most popular Chinese restaurant take-out food. 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb cooked noodles, homemade egg noodles, or organic spaghetti
  • 3 tbsp pork fat, from cooking red braised pork belly, (or a combination of 2 tbsp vegetable oil such as avocado oil or canola oil plus 1 tbsp sesame oil)

For vegetable Stir Fry:

  • 8 oz mung bean sprouts, about 2 cups
  • 3.5 oz kale leaves, about 2 large kale leaf stems
  • 2 oz carrots, peeled thin slices, about 1 cup
  • 2.5 oz red onions, thin-sliced, about 1 cup
  • 4 oz peas, frozen, about 1 cup, optional
  • 4 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp naturally aged soy sauce, or dark soy sauce, see notes

Optional toppings

  • 2 cups of pre-cooked protein items, either meat (pork, chicken, beef), seafood, or beans.

Instructions

Prep Ingredients:

  1. If you stored homemade egg noodles or plain noodles either in the freezer or refrigerator, fill a stockpot with water, bring it to a boil, and then add the noodles to the boiling water. Gently separate the noodles and then remove them from the water immediately using a strainer or skimmer and set aside
  2. Read here for how to cook dry pasta for tasty noodles.
  3. Blanch the frozen peas - Add the peas to the boiling water, cook for 1 min and remove from the water using a strainer or skimmer, and then set aside
  4. Cut onions into slices, peel the carrots into thin layers using a peeler and cut kale into thin strips
  5. Optional step for adding protein - cut pre-cooked protein items into bite-size slices

Stir-Fry Noodles with Vegetables:

  1. Turn the heat to medium-high and heat the wok for 1 minute.
  2. Add pork fat or oil, add mung bean sprouts, kales, red onions, and peas, quickly mix and stir, about 2-3 minutes
  3. Add noodles into the wok, add dark soy sauce and light soy sauce, and continue to toss and mix for about 2 minutes.

Optional - Add protein items

  1. Add the sliced pre-cooked protein items. Mix and stir for 30 seconds.
  2. Alternative option - warm up the pre-cooked protein items separately and add to the top of Chow Mein as toppings if you do not want to mix up the flavors.

Notes

Homemade egg noodles or homemade noodles are an excellent choice for Chow Mein.
Save the pork fat from cooking braised pork belly for Chow Mein and Yang Chun Noodles.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 456Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 127mgSodium: 1497mgCarbohydrates: 49gFiber: 7gSugar: 10gProtein: 18g

Nutrition calculation is provided by Nutritionix to the best knowledge per ingredients description and isn't always accurate.

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