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Chow mein in a can

Does anyone eat LaChoy chinese food from a can? My mother fed me this when I was a kid, about 50 years ago. I still see it in the stores. Has anyone tried it?

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  1. When this was the only game in my little town ... the one 'Chinese' restaurant served La Choy ... I didn't like it. I wonder if it has improved any over the decades. It is still around. I wonder who buys it?

    1 Reply
    1. re: rworange

      I was recently wondering if it had been improved over the years.

      My grandma served me this a lot when i was young and I loved it then but just thinking back to it I probably wouldn't dig it now. Maybe I'll just buy one and try it, they're not super expensive

    2. Oh the memories! My mother used to serve this to my father, with those fake little crunchy noodles on top. I don't think I've ever tried it, but like rworange, it was the only game in my small upstate NY town in those days.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Cachetes

        Interesting. My mother put the chow mien on top of the noodles

        1. re: ChrisOC

          Aah, the diversity of American culinary traditions! :)

          1. re: Cachetes

            We always had the noodles underneath, too. Our first "Chop Suey" meal was at a new restaurant attached to our little town's first motel - we'd never seen it on a menu before and had to try it, and that's how it was served. So of course we all assumed that was the "correct" way of doing it. Unlike most of our posters here, I liked it, canned veges and all. What I remember most was the overpowering flavor of celery, and those crunchy sliced water chestnuts.

            1. re: Will Owen

              When I'm cooking at home, I love deep frying rice nodles, watching them explode like popcorn, then I do serve whatever veggie/protein/sauce dish I've made over them because the sauce softens some of the noodles while the ones still sticking out stay really crispy. It's okay to commit food sins in the privacy of your own home. '-)

            2. re: Cachetes

              Minute Rice down first, then the canned chow mein, then the crunchy noodles, then a couple splashes of really salty soy sauce.

              1. re: ElsieDee

                Ah yes,,,exactly...and wasn't it exotic and delicious!!! Now I'm going to have to buy some to see if I can get it down!

          2. re: Cachetes

            Oh, yes, those crunchy noodles with canned Chinese. My mother was (and is) an adventurous eater, and a good cook. And I am eternally grateful that she tried to broaden my horizons by serving the occasional "ethnic" or alternative dish at our suburban dinner. (She won over her new husband's conservative meat-and-potatoes family with an eggplant dish that they devoured.) But "Chinese" dinner was canned chop suey with those crunchy noodles. I didn't like it. And when, years later, I'd meet people who said, "I love Chinese food," I didn't understand it. Until I started to really explore Chinese restaurants and discovered the options. Now I love it.

            1. re: weem

              Oh, weem... yes. You confirm what I figured out many years ago. My dad is Chinese, and Mom cooked great Chinese at home ... and of course, we ate good Chinese out (when we could ... used to be pretty hard 40 yrs ago in the Midwest!). So when my little Midwestern friends complained how badly they hated Chinese, it was just beyond me. When I tasted the canned stuff, I finally understood.

            1. This was the only Chinese food I ever had until I was in my 20's. My home town in the mountains of KY didn't have Chinese food in the 50's. I remember pouring soy sauce on it to kill the awful taste of the strange veggies, mostly huge hunks of celery. I did like those crunchy noodles though.

              In the San Francisco Bay area we have some of the greatest Chinese restaurants in the world. We have great produce year round. But those cans are still sold in our Safeways. Who buys it?

              1. I have long been strangely tempted to buy some of this stuff to see what it's like. Then again, I bought potted meat product once for the same reason. Mrs. ricepad remembers eating it when she was a kid (to her German mother, it was passable Chinese food), but she cringes at the thought, now.

                1. for many of us who were raised in jewish homes in the new york area, sunday nights often meant family dinner at the local chinese restaurant...i don't know why, it was just a *thing* around here - for my friends' families as well. and it was something we looked forward to, because fortunately our local joints were actually pretty good.

                  so of course, when mom brought home the la choy, we were excited by the prospect of having that special food at home any time we wanted it.


                  man, that stuff was scary. she tried it out on us a few times, but i could never get it down. from what i recall, it bore a disturbing resemblance to canned dog food..and had a similar aroma as well. i figured at the very least the crunchy noodles might be a fun snack, but they always had a horribly chalky, stale texture, and squeaked between my teeth when i chewed them. [*shudder*]

                  i pity the poor folks for whom that was the introduction to chinese food - if that had been my only reference, i'd have written off the cuisine as a whole...

                  1. Lots of us in parts of America with no Asian populations were sentenced to La Choy as our initial window into the wonders of Chinese food. There exists I believe a certain simpatico amongst those of us whose only access to "soy sauce" was that small, heavy, ribbed glass bottle of the concoction marketed by La Choy, along with the cans of dry chow mein noodles and the associated can of "chicken chow mein".

                    We have now escaped into the newer universe of fresh ingredients available in many more places, but perhaps in a spirit of revisionist history, yea even forgiveness, we can consider the place of La Choy in providing shelf stable food (albeit at less than today's culinary standards) that offered an alternative to "meat and 'taters", and was a part of that great upswelling that has resulted in today's awesome scope of multicultural cuisine. If one considers the difficulties of getting fresh bean sprouts, celery, and chicken to the outreaches of America in the 1920's thru 70's, then perhaps we can apply the phrase so useful in the review of every relationship: "perhaps they did they best they could with what they had".

                    Some history:


                    For fun:


                    7 Replies
                    1. re: FoodFuser

                      Who buys La Choy? I did today.

                      I was shopping in Wal-Mart and it was on sale for $2.50 a can.

                      I'm such a class act ... a Wal-Mart shopping, La Choy buying class act.

                      Anyway, I was curious to see what sort of junk was in the ingrediant list ... and my jaw dropped ... real ingrediants ... they even use sugar in the sweet and sour sauce and NO HFCS

                      After reading FoodFuser's history link it is absolutely amazing that a company that was bought so many times managed not to go toxic like most other products. I think no one was really paying attention to La Choy.

                      This company needs a good marketing team. Even the nutritional info is good ... 100 calories per serving, total fat 2.5g. The sodium is on the high side ... but we are talking about a product that uses soy sauce.

                      Realistically, I think that it is more of a two-serving can not three, so that would bump the calories up to 150 per serving ... over rice we are talking $1.25 for lunch or dinner. No more crispy noodles. You have to buy a separate can.

                      In addition to being made in the USA, from FoodFuser's link ...

                      "The company has become famous for preparing its products with fresh ingredients: it ships shortening from Indiana; bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and pineapple from Taiwan, Thailand, and China; mung bean seeds from Oklahoma; pepper and carrots from California and Idaho; and large amounts of chicken, beef, and pork from a number of Midwestern states. Yet, for all its emphasis on high-quality ingredients, the company has experienced difficulty increasing its sales volume"

                      No ... seriously ... they need marketing ... and was that La Choy or Chung King that was so dreadful in the past? Am I condeming the wrong product?

                      Quality ingrediants, quick lunch or dinner that is always there in your cupboard, good nutritional profile ... HIRE A MARKETING TEAM !!!.

                      It may NOT be your mother's La Choy. This stuff looks better than scarfing down whatever it is Campbells puts in their soup, Dennison in it's Chili, Franco American in its canned spagetti. La Choy ... maybe it is time to give them another chance.

                      I bought the pepper beef oriental. Two attached cans.

                      The bottom can has the veggie part ... here's the ingrediant list

                      Water, bean sprouts, carrots, green bell peppers, water chestnuts, baby corn, less than 2% of salt, sugar, ascorbic acid and citric acid (to protect color, flavor)

                      When was the last time you was an ingrediant list that clean on something canned ... and for $2.50 to boot.

                      The top can is the beef and sauce ...

                      "beef broth, lean cooked beef, modified corn starch, sugar, less than 2% of soy sauce (water, salt, hydrolyzed soy protein, corn syrup, caramel color, salt, monsodium glutamate, sodium phospate, carmal, color, flavor, spices"

                      How it tastes will have to wait a while for me. I have a fridge full of food that is going to go bad soon if I don't get to it. Will report back in a few weeks if no one else does.

                      Last year I did a report about how to eat on $3 a day. Often when politicians and reporters try this they buy absurd, unhealthy stuff.

                      Some of the problem with living low on the hog is that some people don't really have cooking skills and turn to prepared food. For someone on an extreme budget, to be able to spend $1.25 for a meal ... providing your own rice would add ... what ... another 25 cents. La Choy could be a good choice. Really, this is a lost marketing opportunity.

                      Will have to see how it tastes, though ... but how could it be worse than Campbell's soup ... famous last words.

                      Oh yeah ... here's the La Choy website ... they actually have some good recipes that you'd never expect ... liked this idea for party mix.

                      Sweet & Crunchy Party Mix

                      2 egg whites
                      2 tablespoons La Choy Soy Sauce
                      1 tablespoon water
                      3 pkgs (6 oz each) whole almonds
                      1 can (5 oz each) La Choy Chow Mein Noodles
                      1 pkg (6 oz each) dried cranberries (6 oz = about 1-1/3 cups)
                      1/2 cup granulated sugar
                      1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
                      1/2 teaspoon salt

                      Basically, you mix everything together, spray a pan with something like Pam and bake for 1 hour stirring every 15 minutes.

                      Who would have thought there might be a there, there at La Choy?

                      1. re: rworange

                        wha????? no celery in the chow mein veggie can? i thought that was a trademark.

                        1. re: alkapal

                          Not chowmein. It was pepper beef oriental.

                        2. re: rworange

                          i can't speak to the beef, we only had the chicken variety in our house. regardless of the quality of ingredients, i personally just thought the stuff looked, tasted & smelled awful...and i don't eat anything that has MSG added to it, so i definitely won't be giving it another try.

                          re: alk's question - i have no idea if celery was a trademark. the only thing that stood out to me was the water chestnuts - the one ingredient in there that i could actually bring myself to eat. i remember picking them out & wiping off the sauce first. they were easy to spot, because they were the only crunchy morsels in there!

                          1. re: rworange

                            I'll join you in a pro-LaChoy viewpoint. As a kid my mother would buy the Chop Suey in a can. And it wasn't bad. The veggies were a bit slimey feeling to me, but they tasted good. And since there were no Chinese restaurants within 50 miles in those days, it was our only way to try it. We felt a bit exotic eating this concoction. And I still wouldn't hesitate to try it again today - I'm coming up with some nice memories associated with it.

                            It surely isn't good Chinese food, but it's decent stuff. And it was a good way to stretch a buck - we had a big family and while we weren't poor, my mom was an expert at feeding us without breaking the bank. A big pot of rice, a pot of tea, and those crunchy noodles (which we ate on top of the plate to keep them crunchy)....

                            1. re: Catskillgirl

                              You people have me craving the chow mein cans now.

                            2. re: rworange

                              It was too hot to cook ... too hot to drive somewhere to eat ... I nuked the La Choy.

                              Though there were a few yikes moments, it really wasn't worse than anything else canned. If you like canned soup or canned chili, you might like La Choy.

                              It doesn't have that funky smell others mentioned ... the aroma that is still etched in my memory.

                              However, the beef is like any beef in canned items. I really don't like any beef-based canned soups ... Campbell's, Progresso, etc because it smells like dog food to me.

                              While this isn't bad ... it is the food of hunger, poverty, necessity or convenience.

                              I got two filling meals out of it which breaks down to $1.25 per meal. Given the ingrediant list is better than most canned foods, the fat low and the calories 150 for each of my two servings ... anyone on a real, real, real budget might consider it. It could be doctored up with some ginger or hot sauce.

                              Opened can with beef ... first yikes moment. A quivering, gelatenous mass was uncovered. Yikes.

                              Scoop it into a bowl and nuke for 2 minutes as instructed. There are about a dozen small pieces in beef in all of that.

                              Open second can ...Yikes again. You've heard the expression "opening a can of worms" ... well, that's what the mainly bean sprouts looked like ... limp white worms.

                              Mix it into beef stuff and nuke 3 more minutes. Voila ... lunch ... and later dinner.

                              They could put a few more water chestnuts in there. I like canned water chestnuts. There were about two ears of baby corn cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Lots of diced pepper(red and green) and diced carrots.

                              The bean sprouts weren't as bad as they looked but not on the crisp side. Why do they go through the trouble of putting this stuff in two cans? It is not like the quality of the veggies is going to be compromised?

                              Again, not worse than canned beef soups. It's pretty unlikely I'd buy it again even as backup emergency canned foods for an earthquake or such,
                              All in all, pretty much the same as it always was .

                          2. I've always thought of chow mein in a can as a food oxymoron. How can you get crispy vegetables from a can! Not edible in my opinion.

                            1. I had never had "Chinese" food, but my mother worked in downtown Los Angeles and sometimes went to lunch in "Chinatown" and reported that they liked the food but were always hungry a short while later. When this stacked can thing came out she got it and we were appalled (normally ate really good stuff). But she planted the seed- so I got my plastic chopsticks with the happy face on top at "Ports O' Call- San Pedro California) and examined the contents of the evil can and started to save some of the (o.k.- brace yourselves) Uncle Ben's rice to sort of stir fry with leftover steak (we were steak 4 days a week..) and celery and onion and sometimes I got canned bean sprouts or water chesnuts. I think I may have found soy sauce somewhere. It took me about 45 minutes to eat between the plastic chopsticks and the slippery converted rice, but it started an adventure.

                              1. I love Chinese food all over China; but would gladly try a can of LaChoy!

                                I love eating in Italy; but now and then love a can of Chef Boyardee raviloli.

                                I wish I had some Spam in a can to make you some Spam musubi!

                                I've never eaten chicken nuggets, boxed mac & cheese, chicken tenders, Miracle Whip--but just give me a chance!

                                Chow mein in a can--I know I can! Send some Spam! Hamburger helper, cans of Manwhich and Campbell's Cream of Mushroom, packets of Lipton's Onion whatever it is, boxes of Kraft M&C!

                                Remember, folks, enjoy it if you like Taco Bell (even if it is not Mexican); enjoy Chef Boyardee even if it isn't Italian... and all that sushi and other stuff you eat in the US even if it isn't Japanese!

                                Someone ... send me ethat can of LaChoy!

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  I wonder if Italian Americans feel the same way about Chef Boyardee as Chinese Americans feel about La Choy.

                                  Of course the relative quality of either LC or CB is in play.

                                  1. re: ML8000

                                    Good question! To me, Chef Boyardee is not Italian. LaChoy is not Chinese.

                                    Spam, hamburger helper, Manwhich, Campbell's Cream of Mushroom, packets of Lipton's Onion whatever it is, and boxed Kraft M&C are "American" for some; but, to me, are just exotica from my native country!

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      Just ran down cellar to check the date on LC Chicken Chow Mein left by my mother-in-law; 6/88. Can't bring myself to eat it.

                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                        1988. has to be a good vintage....

                                        btw, do they still make the boxed egg foo young dinner mix? i last ate that as a sophomore in college...

                                      2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        My daughter's Oaxacan boyfriend craves Taco Bell nachos!

                                    2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      Agreed. A lot of times these knockoff products aren't bad (or at least not bad to everyone), it just requires realizing that it ain't authentic. Example: I love taco bell, I love big macs. I realize I ain't eating mexican and that big mac isn't really a burger, but hey, I like 'em so I eat 'em.

                                      If I think it tastes good I'll eat it. I don't really care what label it is.

                                    3. Ugh! Had it once and it was terrible.