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Chinese noodles [moved from Home Cooking board]

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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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

              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

                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

                  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

                    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

                      "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

                        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

                          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

                          "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

                          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.

                  2. re: MikeG

                    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

                      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.