Chow Mein vs Lo Mein: What’s The Difference?

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Chow Mein vs Lo Mein

Chinese food has had the win for a very long time, especially Chinese noodles. When it comes to Chinese noodles, the two most popular options are Chow Mein and Lo Mein, and as usual, the debate between the two is a never-ending one.

Chow Mein and Lo Mein have their differences; they both have their unique method of preparation, as well as their recipe, nutrition facts, taste, and outcome.

In this article, we will try to give you a broken-down analysis of these two noodles, their unique styles, and their method of preparation, plus every other information you need to know about them. Afterward, We will be revealing the best among the two of them.

What are the differences between Chow Mein and Lo Mein?

The above question is one that is often asked and people tend to mix up the two names and get them wrong. Chow Mein and Lo Mein are both Chinese noodles, but they are not the same.

The main differences between Chow Mein and Lo Mein are the method of cooking and the food texture. Chow Mein is stir-fried noodles, while Lo Mein is noodles mixed or tossed in sauce. Chow Mein noodles are usually par-boiled first and then used to stir-fry with other ingredients with heat. In contrast, Lo Mein noodles are properly cooked then tossed and mixed with the prepared sauce and cooked ingredients. Chow Mein is usually dry crisp while Lo Mein is very saucy, soft, and slippery. 

What is Chow Mein?

Chow Mein, also called “Chao Mian” in the Chinese language, literally means “stir-fried noodles” and it consists of noodles, protein, and vegetables. The noodles are usually parboiled or soaked in hot water before they are stir-fried in a Chinese wok. It is while frying that the noodles are cooked completely and they are usually eaten dry and not saucy.

Chow Mein has its origin from northern China; it was brought into the United States by Chinese immigrants in the 1850s and has gained more popularity since then.

Types of noodles used for Chow Mein

Either fresh or dried noodles can be used to make Chow Mein. The egg noodles are made of wheat flour and eggs (similar to Italian pasta) and are typically 0.6mm thick.

Additional ingredients for Chow Mein

There is a list of ingredients that must be added to a Chow Mein dish, asides from the egg noodles, to give it its complete essence. The following are items that are top of the list:

  • Protein (chicken, shrimps, beef, tofu, egg, etc.)
  • Vegetable (cabbage, bell pepper, spring onion, carrot, mushrooms, broccoli, peas, etc.)
  • Seasoning sauce (soy sauce, oyster sauce, combination of both)
  • Other ingredients to add in the sauce (sesame oil, corn flour, brown sugar, ginger)
  • Garlic and onion

How to cook Chow Mein?

You can first cook the Chow Mein noodles and then pour the stir-fried meat and vegetables on top of the noodles. However, we recommend stir-frying both Chow Mein egg noodles together with the meat and vegetables so that the noodles are more flavorful. Here is how you can make Chow Mein, Chinese style:

STEP 1: Prepare your noodles according to the description on the pack. If you’re making your noodles from scratch, do so before the remaining process.

STEP 2: Prepare your sauce. Do this by taking out a small bowl, then mix all your sauce ingredients till you’ve formed a smooth paste. The ingredients for your paste include soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, corn starch, oyster sauce, and ginger.

STEP 3: Place a big pan or wok on medium heat. Pour in some oil, then season the chicken with salt and pepper and stir fry until it is cooked well.

STEP 4: Pour in your cabbage and other vegetables and stir-fry till the cabbages are wilted.

STEP 5: Add in garlic

STEP 6: Add egg noodles and the mixed sauce into the pan or wok for stir-fry. Stir and mix them together, then leave for about 2-3 minutes. After the sauce has thickened, pour in your remaining spring onion and peas, give it a final stir, then serve.

What is Lo Mein?

Lao Mein, as it is called in Cantonese dialect, precisely means tossed or mixed noodles. The Lo Mein noodles are properly cooked before being combined with pork/meat, vegetables, and sauce in the wok. They are not stir-fried but rather combined and tossed, which is why the Lo Mein noodles is a very saucy one; you have to quote it with a generous amount of sauce.

The Lo Mein noodles also originated from China, it dates back to about 2000 years ago, and it began to spread throughout the world as the Chinese people started immigrating to different parts of the world.

Types of noodles used for Lo Mein

Fresh noodles are the best for making Lo Mein, contrary to Chow Mein. The noodles are also made of wheat flour and eggs (similar to Italian pasta). The Lo Mein noodles are slightly thicker than spaghetti, accompanied by a smooth and chewy texture.

Additional ingredients for Lo Mein

Likewise, for Lo Mein, several essential items must be added to the dish to give it its full flavor aside from the egg noodles. The following are the items that are at the top of the priority list:

  • Protein (chicken, shrimps, beef, tofu, egg, etc.)
  • Vegetable (cabbage, bell pepper, spring onion, carrot, mushrooms, broccoli, bean sprouts, etc.)
  • Seasoning sauce (soy sauce, oyster sauce, dark soy sauce)
  • Other ingredients to add in the sauce (sesame oil, canola oil, corn starch)
  • Garlic and onion

How to cook Lo Mein?

The most important part of the Lo Mein recipe is the sauce. The fresh egg noodles are usually parboiled and added into the pan or wok near the end of cooking with the sauce and other ingredients for a quick tossing. Here is how to properly make Lo Mein:

STEP 1: Start by boiling your noodles (you should get fresh egg noodles from the grocery; they would probably be in the fridge section, the next preferable option is dried or packet egg noodles. Notwithstanding, you can use any noodles of your choice if you can’t find any of the preferable options).

STEP 2: Drain the noodles and coat them with some sesame oil, leave in a bowl.

STEP 3: Pour in some canola oil in a skillet or pan to be heated, then drop in your diced chicken or any other protein of your choice and leave it to cook for about 3 minutes.

STEP 4: Pour in your bell pepper, ginger, and garlic after taking your cooked chicken out of the pan, then leave them to cook for a minute or two while constantly stirring (be sure to make them soft).

STEP 5: Add in some water, oil, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and oyster sauce. You can also add additional ingredients like Chinese cooking wine, low sodium soy sauce, and corn starch.

STEP 6: Add in the carrot, onion, and cabbage, cook them for about a minute or two before adding the chicken and egg noodles back in.

STEP 7: Reduce the heat. Add the remaining spring onion and bean sprout into the mixture, toss them all up and serve.

Chow Mein vs. Lo Mein – Which one is healthier?

If it’s a matter of health, many people are of the opinion that fried foods have more caloric content and fat; therefore, many would say that the Lo Mein noodle dish is healthier. However, using more nourishing oils like olive oil, sesame oil, or canola oil could make your dish just as healthy without many calories. Generally, Chow Mein and Lo Mein consist of noodles made with eggs and wheat flour, alongside vegetables, protein, and sauces; hence, they can be healthy when eaten in a considerable amount and prepared with more vegetables. Usually, processed noodles contain loads of carbohydrates that can turn to excessive fat when consumed too much, and this can increase your waistline.

Chow Mein vs. Lo Mein – Which one is better?

Generally speaking, there is no better one between the two; it all boils down to your personal taste. If you like crispy, dry, and chewy noodles, the Chow Mein noodles are for you. However, if you prefer saucy, moist, and slippery noodles, then you should choose Lo Mein noodles. More so, if you love both textures, then both the Chow Mein and Lo Mein are for you.

In conclusion, there is no wrong or bad dish; there is only wrong or bad preparation. Therefore, Chow Mein and Lo Mein are both excellent and tasty choices of Chinese dishes. When prepared right, they could both be your favorite.


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