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chow mein vs. chow fun??

Hey Chowhounds... what's the difference between Chow Mein and Chow Fun ?
Thanks in advance!

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  1. Chow mein usually mean thin egg noodles which have been pan browned to be crispy. Usually the noodle is served at the bottom of the plate, and the meat/veggies are dumped on top. Chow fun (or Chow foon) are wide flat rice noodles which have been coated with lard. It's stir fried with meat / veggies together.

    10 Replies
    1. re: dpan

      It's coated with lard? Really? All the time? Or just in specific dishes?

      1. re: litchick

        AFAIK all the rice noodles used in chow fun are coated with lard, hence its slipperiness before cooking.

        1. re: dpan

          Interesting! Thanks for the 411.

          1. re: dpan

            Are you sure that chow fun are rice noodles? I have been eating beef or spicy beef chow fun in Chinatown restaurants for decades, and the texture appears to be much more like a traditional noodle than a rice noodle. In fact, there is quite a bit of elasticity, which makes me think it is the same concoction as lo mein noodles, but rolled and cut flat. I am only questioning this because when I took a Chinese cooking class many years ago, rice noodles were whitish, very thin and rolled into balls before cooking. They were then fried, which seemed to puff them up, but they looked nothing like Chow Fun, shape aside. They just seem so different in texture from Chow Fun.

            Chow fun dishes are often slightly smoky in flavor, due to the use of liquid smoke. Chow mein noodles are those long, round, crunchy items that you are often served to toss over your chow mein or meat/veggie dish in Cantonese restaurants, and lo mein is a round noodle, similar in shape and texture to thick spaghetti.

            1. re: RGC1982

              There are many types of rice noodles. These noodles are called "haw fun" when you buy them in sheets at the store. The smoky flavor you describe is what "wok hei," which is associated with the dry type of chow fun (like beef chow fun or "gon chow ngo haw" in Cantonese). Frankly, I don't know where you get this stuff about the use of liquid smoke. The smoky flavor comes from the intense heat of the wok, nothing else.

              1. re: RGC1982

                Chow fun gets its texture from being stir-fried in the wok, which makes it tougher and drier. The smoky flavor comes from adding the soy sauce while the wok is hot.

              2. re: dpan

                Here in LA, they are coated with oil, not lard. Coating it with lard makes it difficult to stir fry--too low of a smoking point.

                1. re: raytamsgv

                  I'd have to say the same for Bay Area, never heard of ho fun being coated in lard.

                  1. re: kc72

                    The ones I buy in Manhattan's Chinatown are also coated in oil, not lard.

                  2. re: raytamsgv

                    I don't think any Chinese restaurants are using pork lard in their chow fun, cheung fun, or dim sum items like wrapper dough and so forth. It was used traditionally, though.

            2. I believe "chow" means to fry or stirfry. "Fun" refers to the flat rice noodles.

              1 Reply
              1. re: kittyfood

                kittyfood is right, but incomplete.

                Chow = stirfry
                fun = flat rice noodles
                mein = thin wheat noodles

                There are as many variations on chow fun and chow mein as there are cooks making the dishes.

              2. since nomenclature differs from area to are, I will preface by saying that in Chicago, these are the differences:

                Chow mein = chop suey with crunchy fried noodles

                Cantonese chow mein = chop suey with very thin pan fried noodles (still a tiny bit chewy)
                Chow fun = stir fry with an assortment of better vegetables, and far less gravy / cornstarch than chop suey, with pan fried WIDE rice noodles. I can actually buy sheets of refrigerated "chow fun" noodles. I LOVE chow fun, and usually judge an american-Chinese resto by how they do chow fun. Actualy just ordered some on Friday night!

                Lo Mein is usually the same as chow fun, but with a thinner/ spaghetti type noodle. Some places here will use ramen noodles for this. I do not go to those places.

                War mein usually IS spaghetti noodles.

                So here, the noodles are definitely different, but I also find that the quality of veggies / sauce getting chowed is different too.

                1. In San Francisco...you can get Chow Mein (thin noodles, fried crispy or not.)

                  ChowFun is a wide noodle... it can be ordered "dry" which picks up Wok Hai (the smokey flavor of the wok) (my personal favorite) or "wet" with a gravy.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: ChowFun_derek

                    Here in Toronto the most common chow fun noodle I've bought at Chinese supermarkets is a fresh rice noodle (think lasagna pasta) impregnated with finely chopped dried shrimp and fresh green onion. It can be cut to suit whatever size your recipe or fancy dictates.

                    Chow mein noodles that I buy are packaged semi-dry and are roughly the thickness of dry spaghettini. I reconstitute them under running hot water for 3-4 minutes. I use them in stir fries, letting my appetite direct the degree or not of crispiness. I also use them in soups. They are wheat noodles.

                    1. re: mrbozo

                      The flat rice noodles that are impregnated with dried shrimp and green onion are rolled up like fillingless canneloni and are cooked that way (called cheung fun). Regular fun refer to rice noodles, generally plain fettucine shaped rice noodles.

                  2. Mein: wheat noodles. Fun: Rice noodles. Chow simply means stir fried.