Many people believe that the difference between Chinese noodles and lo mein lies in the type of noodle. This conclusion makes sense, given that Chinese noodles are crispy and lo mein is soggy. However, what distinguishes chow mein from lo mein is not the type of noodle, but the way it is prepared.
To expand your knowledge of Asian cuisine, we will explain what chow mein is, what lo mein is, and the contrast between the two cuisines. We will also discuss how chow mein and lo mein are prepared, with specific recipes for each dish, so you can try making them at home.
Chow mein is characterized by the crispy texture of the noodles and not being gooey, instead of pouring sauce over the noodles.
What is chow mein?
Generally speaking, chow mein refers to fried noodles. Specifically, there are two main types of chow mein that can be made
Steamed Chinese noodles
Noodles are stir-fried, then stir-fried with meat, vegetables, and other ingredients and topped with a light sauce.
Crispy Chow Mein
Crispy chow mein is made by pressing the noodles flat while stir-frying, resulting in a pancake-like dish. Additional ingredients and sauces are all layered on top of the pancake noodles.
In both styles of fried rice, the noodles are the star of the dish. Extra vegetables and protein are kept to a minimum so as not to interfere with the crispy noodle texture. The noodles are boiled and then fried in oil, allowing the chef to concentrate on cooking the noodles until they are crispy.
Similarly, the sauce in the chashu-men recipe is used sparingly. Instead of pouring the sauce over the noodles, the crispy noodle texture is used to make the chow mein not soggy. Crispy chow mein may be served with a thicker sauce, in which case the crispy outer part of the noodle becomes softer and fluffier.
Here are some pointers to help you easily determine if you are eating chow mein.
- The crispiness of the noodles stands out–in the case of crispy chow mein.
- Noodles are oily……. For Steamed Chinese.
- The amount of protein and vegetables is kept to a minimum.
- The sauce is lightly coated and does not overpower or weigh down the noodles.
What is lo mein?
Basically, lo mein simply means mixed noodles. Lo mein dishes usually contain vegetables and some type of protein, such as chicken, beef, pork, seafood, or tofu. In other words, lo mein is a dried version of traditional noodle soup. To recreate the texture of the broth, chefs drown the noodle dish in a delicious sauce.
Lo mein is made with noodles that have been boiled and then drained. These boiled noodles are then placed in a wok with a variety of already cooked vegetables and proteins and mixed with the lo mein sauce. All ingredients are gently stirred together until the noodles are hot. At this point, pour a little more sauce over the wok to complete the dish.
If you are not sure how to eat lo mein, look for these tips
- The entire dish is covered with a generous amount of lo mein sauce, giving it a bold and delicious flavor.
- The noodles are not greasy.
- There is quite a bit of vegetables and protein mixed in with the noodles and sauce.
CHOW MEIN VS. lo mein noodles
You are not alone in confusing chow mein and lo mein. It is easy to see the word “mein” and think they are the same dish. However, “mein” simply means “noodle”. In other words, confusing chow mein with lo mein is like confusing tortellini with ravioli: both are culinary terms for a type of Italian pasta, but they are different.
In English, chow mein is translated as fried noodles and lo mein as fried or stir-fried noodles. Since both are noodle-based dishes, the main difference between chow mein and lo mein is the way the noodles are prepared. Here are the main elements that separate the cooking styles of each Chinese noodle dish.
Although they use similar ingredients, chow mein and lo mein are prepared in very different ways. Chow mein noodles are soaked in hot water to soften before stir-frying. By stir-frying, the noodles as well as the other ingredients are fully cooked. In contrast, lo mein noodles are thoroughly cooked before being mixed with the meat, vegetables, and sauce. Instead of stir-frying, the lo mein ingredients are lightly mixed and stirred.
Both noodle dishes taste better when cooked in a wok, but the cooking methods are different. To cook chow mein, lightly stir-fry the ingredients in a very hot wok with a small amount of oil, stirring vigorously. For lo mein, the noodles are already cooked and instead of stir-frying, they are simply mixed with the other ingredients.
Chow mein is more of a dry noodle dish with a very light and delicate sauce or no sauce at all. Lo mein is a noodle dish with sauce, and the flavor is largely dependent on the thick sauce.
Depending on how they are stir-fried, Chinese noodles can be more chewy than stir-fried noodles. Lo mein noodles tend to be smoother and slightly softer because they are cooked thoroughly before being mixed with other ingredients and sauces. Lo mein noodles must also be thick and sturdy to support the weight of the sauce.
Despite the differences between Chinese noodles and lo mein, both use Chinese egg noodles, which are made from wheat flour noodles to which eggs are added. Raw egg noodles are required for lo mein, but chow mein can be prepared with either fresh or dried egg noodles.
Whether raw or dried egg noodles are used, they must be softened in boiling water before cooking. The standard for boiling egg noodles is until they are just soft enough. This is the texture usually referred to as “al dente” in Italian cuisine, meaning “cooked to perfection.
Fresh egg noodles only need to be boiled for a few minutes, while dried egg noodles need to be steamed in boiling water for about 5 minutes before cooking. Remember that the exact cooking time depends on the thickness of the noodles. So be sure to follow the package directions for each type of noodle.
If you cannot find noodles clearly labeled as chow mein noodles or lo mein noodles, you can buy them at the store.
Chicken lo mein
Chicken lo mein is an absolute must. In fact, it is the meat that is used to make lo mein, a classic Chinese dish. The recipe presented here has more ingredients than the simple version. However, the more ingredients, the tastier the recipe. Enjoy the sweet and savory taste of lo mein chicken today.
Beef lo mein
Beef lo mein is similar to chicken lo mein, the only difference is the meat. Beef is the second most popular meat to serve with lo mein. Beef has a slightly milder flavor than chicken. If chicken is not your favorite meat, beef lo mein is a good substitute. This side dish is always on the menu at Chinese restaurants. But this homemade version is just as tasty and healthier.
Lo mein with vegetables
This is a great vegetarian option. You can make a lo mein full of healthy toppings such as mushrooms, snow peas, and carrots. For a healthier, low-sodium version, adjust the amount of soy sauce or use a low-sodium type.
Ramen noodles with shrimp
If you like seafood, shrimp lo mein is another great choice. The sweetness and juiciness of the shrimp, combined with the softness of the noodles, makes for the best lo mein flavor.
Choose this dish. You will be amazed at the flavor. It requires only a few ingredients and 15 minutes to prepare.
Difference Between Chow Mein and Lo Mein | Video Explanation
What kind of noodles are used in each dish?
Both chow mein and lo mein are prepared with egg noodles made from flour and eggs, just like Italian noodles. Lo mein is best made with fresh noodles, while chow mein can be made with fresh or dried noodles. The noodles are usually about 2 cm thick (slightly thicker than spaghetti) and have a smooth surface and good texture.
How is chow mein cooked?
Chow mein is cooked in a wok as a stir-fry. First, the noodles are half-cooked or soaked in hot water to soften them slightly, but they are not fully cooked at this stage. Meat (chicken, pork, or beef), tofu, or shrimp is stir-fried in a sizzling wok with onions, celery and other herbs, bean sprouts, and other vegetables. Pre-cooked noodles are placed in the wok to finish cooking. The result is a dish with slightly soft noodles and crunchy, tender vegetables. (For chow mein, the noodles are more important than the vegetables).
How is lo mein cooked?
Unlike chow mein, lo mein noodles are cooked separately from the other ingredients, so they are fully cooked rather than partially cooked. (This is another difference between chow mein and lo mein: lo mein is cooked with a sauce, while chow mein is usually drier or less liquid.) The end result is softer and coated with sauce.
Finally, it is important to note that both chow mein and lo mein have been heavily influenced and altered by the Westerners who adopted them. If you order either of these dishes in an American Chinese restaurant, they are usually very different from traditional Chinese food because they have been modified to suit Western tastes.
How is it prepared?
Some cooks stir-fry Chinese noodles separately to make “noodle patties” and then pour sautéed meat and vegetables over the stir-fried noodles. They are also delicious stir-fried with meat, chicken, or vegetables.
For lo mein, steamed noodles are often added at the end of the cooking time, heated and mixed with other ingredients and sauces. Alternatively, the noodles may be tossed with the sauce and the stir-fried ingredients poured over the top.
Since sauce is the main ingredient in lo mein, it is not surprising that lo mein recipes use more sauce than Chinese recipes.
Which is better?
It all depends on your personal preference. Soft lo mein noodles absorb more sauce. On the other hand, char siu pork offers a wider variety of textures. For example, crispy noodles and celery can be paired with soft mushrooms, bean sprouts, or juicy tomatoes.
Did you know?
While the standard takeout from Chinese restaurants is chow mein with crispy thin noodles, authentic chow mein is made with soft noodles. The main difference between the two lies in the frying time. To make dry, crispy noodles, more oil is added and the frying time is longer.
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