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Chinese noodles [moved from Home Cooking board]

dimsumgirl Sep 24, 2006 11:59 PM

Okay so yesterday after a fantastic dim sum and lobster lo mein, RWC and I went into a nearby market. There were noodles, noodles, noodles. I went for my usual thin egg uncooked noodles. But what about those ones that looked thin and already cooked-- what are those and what are they used for? And how about those thick ones? And which ones would someone buy if they wanted to try to make lo mein? I am so confused. Been trying to bribe Yimster into offering a cooking class (name your price) but no luck. Anyone else have ideas?

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  1. PBSF Sep 25, 2006 02:41 AM

    I've never seen cooked thin noodle in a Chinese market unless you are referring to rice noodle or fried noodle that comes in cake form. There is no hard rule on what thickness of the noodle is used for what dishes. I've seen chow mein with thin or medium noodle, same for soup noodle. It depends on your preference. The won ton houses usually use the very thin egg noodle because their won tons are made with very thin Hong Kong style won ton wrappers. Some restaurants use the regular wrappers so their noodle will be the standard medium thickness. There is also a flat egg noodle that is use in soup. Generally, the medium is use for low mein, though some like the very thick because it has more texture and chew.

    1. yimster Sep 25, 2006 02:49 AM

      There are cooked noodles in the market but they are label as "steamed". They are cooked are I used them when we make chow mein and I am too lazy or busy to boil them that day. Instead of cooked the fresh noodles to al dente all you have to do is just place them in hot water an let set for a few minutes to drain and make chow mein.

      To the OP, the noodles you select will depend on what you are cooking. As for offering cooking lesson I really do not know how to cook us just a big con job. :>) What do you want to cook maybe some one can help you out.

      1. m
        MikeG Sep 25, 2006 02:56 AM

        There is something called "cooked noodles" that are quite common in NYC's Chinatown. They're vile. I don't know what the difference is from lo mein noodles which they superficially resemble, but they're kind of gritty and well, vile. I take it significant that while most places run out of the others occasinally (say, early on Monday before they get a new delivery), they NEVER run out of the these. I think there's a reason for that.;)

        Again, around here, lo mein noodles are labelled as such. Not being a big fan of very thin pasta of any nationality, I like them in soup, too.

        1. Gary Soup Sep 25, 2006 03:10 AM

          As the others have said, to make "lo mein" (generally known on the West Coast and in China as "chow mein" ("chao mian"), use the medium noodles. On the other hand, if you are making "Hong Kong style" chow mein, use the skinny egg noodles. Shanghai style would use the thick ones.

          1. m
            MikeG Sep 25, 2006 03:27 AM

            Why the difference in terminology (chow mein vs lo mein)? Is it a just language/dialect difference, or something else?

            The noodles labeled as Shanghai style (here in NYC) appear not to be egg noodles, but I'm not sure the others actually have egg in them, it might just be food coloring...

            12 Replies
            1. re: MikeG
              Gary Soup Sep 25, 2006 04:01 AM

              I'm not sure why the terminology differs from coast to coast, but "lo mein" is presumably a phonetic rendering of a regional pronunciation of, "la mian" meaning "hand pulled moodles". "La mian" does not imply a particular cooking style, and in fact is the origin of of the Japanese term "ramen" which usually refers to noodles in soup.

              "Chow mein" is a rendering of "chao mian," or "stir fried" noodles, and therefore is areference to a method of cooking, not making, noodles.

              1. re: Gary Soup
                Melanie Wong Sep 25, 2006 04:29 AM

                Lo mein is Cantonese for braised noodles, and that's what you'll get in SF if you order that way. Gon lo mein is dry braised noodles.

                1. re: Melanie Wong
                  Gary Soup Sep 25, 2006 04:39 AM

                  That makes sense, even though you almost never see "Lo mein" on English menus in SF the way you do in NY; In the old days under "chow mein" you were offered the choice of "pan fried or crispy" which I can imagine were "lo mein" or "gan lo mein" in spoken Cantonese.

                  But is the character for Cantonese "lo" a different one than the character for Mandarin "la"? I'll have to track that one down....

                  1. re: Gary Soup
                    Melanie Wong Sep 25, 2006 04:46 AM

                    No, sorry, I'm confusing you. Lo mein and chow mein are different animals on an SF menu. Lo mein noodles are boiled, drained, then given a swish with some stock or gravy. Or no stock at all but served plain with a cup of soup on the side and just topped with whatever choice you've made, e.g., roast duck. Lo mein and gan lo mein are not browned. Chow mein are boiled, drained, then pan-fried in oil either to browned crispiness in the Hong Kong-style or just browned a bit and mixed with the toppings/ingredients of choice.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                      PBSF Sep 25, 2006 05:07 AM

                      "lo" in Chinese means "to mix" or "to toss", hence as Melanie in previous post, lo mein is cook, drained, then given a quick swish in liquid and not cooked any further.

                      1. re: PBSF
                        Gary Soup Sep 25, 2006 06:11 PM

                        What is the PinYin or Chinese character for this "lo?" I can't find anything sounding like that that means "tossed." This sounds a lot like "ban mian" (or "bu mee" in my wife's Shanghainese) except the tossing in usually in oil with chives or some other savory ingredients.

                        1. re: Gary Soup
                          PBSF Sep 25, 2006 06:37 PM

                          Sorry that I cannot write a word of Chinese. It can also be translated as to "mix". Maybe someone else can help.

                        2. re: PBSF
                          Blueicus Sep 25, 2006 06:57 PM

                          "Lo" is a colloquial term in Cantonese, so you'd probably not see it in literature unless referring to "lo mein" or as written verse. Also, the "lo mein" I've always had in Hong Kong style congee/noodle shops are as described above, boiled and drained thin yellow noodles served with stuff (from won tons to a spicy pork mixture to green onion and garlic julienne) accompanied with oyster sauce and broth on the side. In more "Canadian-Chinese" places I've seen lo mein described as I would normally associated with a "chow mein".

                        3. re: Melanie Wong
                          SomeRandomIdiot Sep 25, 2006 06:29 PM

                          Another question/distinction for your lo mein/chow mein definition. how do e-fu noodles fit in? They are braised, sometimes served in soup but to me are not really lo mein or chow mein.

                          1. re: SomeRandomIdiot
                            Melanie Wong Sep 25, 2006 06:45 PM


                  2. re: MikeG
                    Gary Soup Sep 25, 2006 04:52 AM

                    The big "Shanghai" noodles should not have egg in them, nor should the medium ones, traditionally, though they may come both ways. The alkali may have something to do with the yellowish coloring.

                    1. re: Gary Soup
                      PBSF Sep 25, 2006 05:15 AM

                      Recently, I've noticed that many of the medium noodles do contain eggs rather than yellow coloring. There is even a version of the 'thin' noodle made this way. They are less expensive than the common thin egg noodle that are made with more eggs, hence, the deeper yellow color. The texture is also different where the more eggy version have more "crispiness" then the other. Also there are stores that carry freshly daily delivered thin egg noodles that come woven into a loose ball.

                  3. m
                    MikeG Sep 25, 2006 04:21 AM

                    Thanks. For whatever the reason, I don't recall seeing "chow mein" on NYC restaurants even going back to my childhood, but that could just be faulty memory.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: MikeG
                      coll Sep 25, 2006 11:45 AM

                      Or maybe you're not old enough?

                    2. m
                      MikeG Sep 25, 2006 12:20 PM

                      Hence, the faulty memory concession.;) I distinctly remember eating Chinese food as early as about '69, definitely remember what my family tended to order in the early 70s, but since I was born in '64, the earliest memories are a bit fuzzy. But I definitely haven't seen chow mein on a menu here since I've been sentient.;)

                      I have heard the name, but always assumed it was something like "chop suey" (which my family disdained to order, snobbishly or otherwise), not the proper name for what I knew as "lo mein".

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: MikeG
                        coll Sep 25, 2006 01:14 PM

                        It used to be the main thing on Chinese menus in the 50s and 60s. My family was very daring and always got some bbq ribs too. We now have a friend who is into being very retro and he still always orders chow mein, but we consider this part of his eccentricities.

                      2. m
                        MikeG Sep 25, 2006 01:49 PM

                        lol The "worst" thing I remember was the sweet & sour pork, but even that was only an occasional concession to us kids who, being kids, loved that disgustingly sweet dayglo red goo it came with.;) On the other hand, the all too often infamous moo goo gai pan definitely sticks in my memory!

                        1. c
                          chocolatetartguy Sep 25, 2006 06:44 PM

                          I like the uncooked medium gauge egg noodles. They cook in minutes, so why bother with precooked. They freeze well. I think my brand is New Hong Kong Noodle Co. I buy them at Orient Market in Oakland. The fresh Asian noodles I can buy in the supermarket here are vastly inferior to those bought in Ctown.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: chocolatetartguy
                            dimsumgirl Sep 25, 2006 07:10 PM

                            The New Hong Kong Noodle is the one that I usually buy in my Asian market. I agree that it is superior to what is available in the regular grocery store. But this weekend, in SF I was at a market where the fresh noodles were in unmarked plastic bags and sold by weight. I saw the noodles that prompted my original post. Great replies from everyone. Thanks!

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