HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >

Discussion

Trying to duplicate take-out lo mein

Hello,

Specifically, I am trying to make the brown noodles, soaked in brown sauce, stir-fried with thin-sliced chicken, scallions, and still-crispy onion and carrot slivers, bamboo shoots, sprouts, celery, and napa cabbage. Eaten straight out of the waxed carton, and available at fine strip-mall Chinese restaurants throughout the Midwest.

I have tried to make it at home but I have never gotten that indefinable savory flavor you get from the restaurant. Please help me stop paying $7 per carton for such a seemingly simple dish!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. It IS very simple. I commend you on your quest.
    Please describe your method when you try at home.

    4 Replies
    1. re: gordeaux

      OK. First, I thin slice the chicken and toss in cornstarch. While the chicken marinates I slice the vegetables into thin ribbons. I heat up some vegetable oil in the skillet to the point where it is starting to smoke, then I quickly sauté the chicken to a half-done state. Remove chicken, add a little more oil, heat it up again, and then the vegetables go in with some grated ginger. Stir fry for 2 minutes, then add in chicken. Add soy sauce and cornstarch slurry to make a brown sauce. Finally the cooked noodles go in and it’s all stir-fried together for 2-3 minutes.

      The problem is that the end result is too oily, rather than saucy like I am looking for. It also does not have the savory, hard-to-describe take-out taste which is the whole point of the dish. Finally, the color is all wrong… the noodles are too pale and barely even browned! Any tips?

      1. re: RealMenJulienne

        "Add soy sauce and cornstarch slurry to make a brown sauce. Finally the cooked noodles go in and it’s all stir-fried together for 2-3 minutes."

        You can't brown your noodles if you are cooking them in liquid. That is to say, if you are looking for pan seared noodles.

        BUT, if you are looking for them to get brown as in coated with sauce -
        I would suggest a few extra ingredients besides what you've listed. There is a pretty big hole in what you've listed. The biggest omissions from my standpoint are:

        Oyster sauce
        Sesame oil
        Chili garlic sauce
        Shou-Xing wine
        (I'll assume you use garlic)

        "The problem is that the end result is too oily, rather than saucy like I am looking for. It also does not have the savory, hard-to-describe take-out taste which is the whole point of the dish."

        That statement is SCREAMING oyster sauce, chili garlic, and sesame oil to me. Soy sauce, ginger, and slurry are NOT going to net you anything tasting like Chinese take out.

        Try adding a few drops of sesame oil each time you add an ingredient to your wok. It's pretty strong stuff, so just a few drops at a time. The oyster sauce, chili garlic sauce/paste, and shao xing would be added to the soy sauce and slurry. Start with a good tbs full of oyster sauce, to 1/2 tbs of chili garlic, and a splash of the wine. Mix it in the wok, let it get hot, taste the concoction, and add more as needed.

        I really think that sesame oil, and oyster sauce are going to open up a whole new world for you as far as figuring out Chinese take out concoctions.

        Flavor profiles of these things:
        Oyster Sauce - pretty salty, thick, hint of sweetness
        Toasted Sesame oil - very strong nutty flavor. A few drops can season a lot.
        Chili Garlic sauce - salty, garlicky, and depending on the brand, possibly a good amount of heat
        Shao Xing cooking wine - It's cooking wine.

        Get these things at an Asian mkt instead of a big American grocer, and you'll prolly pay about 1/3 of the price the American grocer is charging. Any Asian grocer will have ALL of these things, and probably four or five different brands.

        1. re: gordeaux

          Gordeaux, thank you for your very comprehensive reply. I am off to Asia Mart at this very moment!

          1. re: gordeaux

            I wonder, are there any standard ratios for basic chinese sauces? For instance, I know when I am making a vinaigrette it is generally 3-1 oil to vinegar.
            Is there any foolproof soy to sesame oil to chili garlic sauce to fish sauce to sesame oil etc. ratio for any of the basic sauces?

      2. You need wok hay, which is the flavour imparted by cooking over a higher heat than you could easily replicate at home. MSG would also probably help.

        2 Replies
        1. re: mrbozo

          "MSG would also probably help."

          L! F'ng! O! L!
          Sweet. I needed that.

          1. re: mrbozo

            Exactly.

            So much of what people like about restaurant chinese is impossible to recreate at home because it comes from cooking in a well-seasoned, screaming hot wok.

            The wok gives the food much of that "indefinable savory flavor. "

            Agree on the MSG too. A pinch of Goya sauzon (without annatto) would do it.

          2. Unfortunately, I don't think that you will be able to re-create that unique flavor you are describing without a well-seasoned wok and a really high BTU burner. I say this because I was in pursuit of the same flavors and it wasn't until I was able to replace my cooktop with a high-BTU unit that I ever achieved anything reasonably close to "real" Chinese food. I know that some determined cooks who are unable to re-design their kitchen order a single, high-BTU unit for outdoor use and have had good luck with that. IMHO you are going to need 20k BTU at a minimum, more is better! Also be sure that your wok is properly seasoned - it gets better the more that you use it.

            3 Replies
            1. re: kbjesq

              I agree that it will be very difficult to obtain EXACTLY what you're looking for.

              High BTUs aren't only for getting the pan hot (you can get your pan white hot with enough time on the home stove), but keeping it up to temp while you're cooking.

              Seasoned wok - sure, the home-wok will eventually get seasoned, but that wok in the restaurant kitchen is a genuine workhorse. Cooking almost every dish coming out, day in day out. This amount of use, I think, adds a certain something.

              Speaking of which, there's probably plenty of 'certain somethings' entering the equation. I remember a friend asking me why I couldn't make salt and pepper squid like our favorite Chinese. We agreed, need proper BTUs, super seasoned wok, and alot of this and thats. For example, he usually smoked while he cooked, the cigarette ash about 2 inches long, smoke seeping up so that he'd squint with one eye - secret ingredient is probably cigarette ash...

              You should get better results with the suggestions here.
              My 2c: experiment with various flavors sparingly at first. Sometimes a lighter touch with sasame oil or oyster sauce or chili paste will get you better results than being heavy handed.

              1. re: kbjesq

                Hi Kathryn. Did you see the latest issue of Cook's? They have a pork lo mein recipe. They specifically state that they're using a skillet because the wok doesnt work well at home.

                Let me know what you think if you make it.

                1. re: Calipoutine

                  Their recipe is really meat- and veggie-heavy for the amount of noodles used, and they admit to quadrupling the amount of meat to satisfy their American tasters! There's other changes I would make, but that's our family's taste.

              2. Hmmmmm!

                This is an actual commercial recipe for brown sauce used in quite a few places in Seattle.

                Commercial/Institutional Recipe for Chinese Brown Sauce (Sauce)
                Yield: Approximately 4 1/2 US gallons.

                Ingredients

                50 cups water
                2 cups Shaoxing Cooking Wine
                2 cups mushroom soy sauce
                7 cups soy sauce
                3 lbs sugar
                3 tbsp white pepper
                3 tbsp garlic powder
                3 cups oyster sauce
                1 1/2 cups chicken base
                1 cup sesame oil

                Directions

                Combine all ingredients except sesame oil.
                Place in pot and bring to boil.
                Remove from heat, add sesame oil and stir.
                Cool and refrigerate until use.

                Notes:
                1 pound sugar equals 2 1/4 US cups. 3 pounds equal 6 3/4 cups.
                Chicken base is a commercial product available in various container sizes.

                For smaller batch sizes, use the following ingredient amounts:

                2 1/4 US gallons
                25 cups water
                1 cup Shaoxing Cooking Wine
                1 cup mushroom soy sauce
                3 1/2 cups soy sauce
                1 1/2 lbs sugar
                1 1/2 tbsp white pepper
                1 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
                1 1/2 cups oyster sauce
                3/4 cup chicken base
                1/2 cup sesame oil

                1 1/8 US gallons
                12 1/2 cups water
                1/2 cup Shaoxing Cooking Wine
                1/2 cup mushroom soy sauce
                1 3/4 cups soy sauce
                3/4 lbs sugar
                2 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
                2 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
                3/4 cup oyster sauce
                6 tablespoon chicken base
                1/4 cup sesame oil

                3 Replies
                1. re: hannaone

                  LOL! Any one of those should last me a couple of years. Maybe decades!

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    When my wife and I did our Teriyaki take out in Seattle, I ummm, uhhh, "acquired" a book of Chinese restaurant take out recipes that are still in use in a number of places in Seattle. I've been toying with the idea of tweaking some of them and downsizing to usable home quantities.

                    1. re: hannaone

                      Well, I see some of my posts are going into orbit again instead of on this board. <sigh> Either that, or the first one will arrive after the secone one.

                      I think you've got a winner! Taking any advance orders? I'm seriousl Call it something like, "Cantonese like you can't get any more," and it will be a runaway best seller!

                2. If you enjoy Asian food, it's really worth buying a wok. Just make sure it's carbon steel and you learn how to cure and care for it. You'll never get "authenic" flavor out of a non-stick or stainless wok, no matter wh's name is on the label. Carbon steel woks are cheap, and for once in life, the best is the cheapest!

                  Lo mein... For openers, I start with a really not wok, add some peanut oil, stir fry shaved garlic and ginger. Do NOT let the garlic burn. Add whatever meat you're using. When I use chicken, I use thighs and cut it into small pieces.. Let begin to brown stirring constantly, then add veggies in order, longest cooking first, then push it all high on the sides of the pan, add a bit more oil if needed, add cooked noodles and allow to brown a bit, then stir everything together with a slurry of corn startch, mirin, a little oyster sauce to darken it, and soy suace (Kikkoman for cooking, Yamas for finishing). Add to lo mein and stir until thickened. Add sesame oil, maybe a little fish sauce. Taste. Add more oyster sauce if desired. All sorts of things you can add at this point to tune the flavor.

                  I often make a really basic lo mein using chicken, sliced onions, chopped celery, a few sliced button mushrooms, green cabbage and good old supermarket fettucini. And the slurry, of course. Many years ago, there was a great Asian market in San Diego called Woo Chee Chong, and they sold this by the tubfull from their food cunter. $2.00 worth of take-out to feed an army!

                  23 Replies
                  1. re: Caroline1

                    Do you first cook your noodles (boil), dry them and put the noodles into the wok, leave them alone allowing them to brown and crisp a bit first. Then remove the noodle nest and put it back in the wok once you're made the rest of the dish? Or am I thinking of a different dish? Chow mein perhaps? I had this question askedof me once before and the person was from Texas. This brown sauce is really something I'm not understanding, is it different than say the sauce for brocolli beef with oyster sauce?

                    1. re: chef chicklet

                      For lo mein, I just use very well drained fettucini. I usually boil them before I even heat up the wok, set them in the collander to drain while I do the rest. They don't have to brown, but if they do, that's okay too. I just do try to get a little of the fry-texture in a few places, but it's really not an absolute must. I did use fresh-frozen udon once, and it was good, but I love udon too much to use it in anything but a broth. But there's no law you can't experiment. I have used wide rice noodles, but they aren't my favorite because they don't have the "tooth" that wheat pasta does.

                      For other dishes such as chow mein, in which there are no noodles actually in the dish, but are used as a garnish (if that's the right word), I often deep fry rice noodles and make a sort of nest -- or whatever happens once they hit the hot oil -- and use that UNDER the chow mein, as opposed to the traditional on-top-of. When rice noodles hit hot oil, it's like instant popped rice. They expand like a balloon and take on a fascinating texture. Crispy, tender, fun. I often eat them alone, just as a snack, but when you put any meat-vegetable-sauce dish on top of them, the puffed noodles take on the moisture and do their best to revert to the original texture they would have had if boiled. But little edges and curls escape the sauce, so you end up with both textures. I *THOUGHT* I had created this all by myself, but when I talked about it in another thread, several Asian Amricans told me that there is, indeed, nothing new under the sun and it's been done for ages. But if I understood correctly, mostly in homes and rarely in restaurants. Maybe it's just a no brainer that anyone can stumble on to, no creativity required. '-)

                      With Chinese dishes, I'm not convinced there is a right way or a wrong way, just one particular cook's way as opposed to another cook's. In Chinese cooking (as opposed to French), "brown sauce," for me, is simply a sauce that is brown, and there are several ways to get there. Oyster sauce is a common method. Dark soy sauce is another. Can't remember what the recipe was for, but decades ago I used a Chinese recipe that made "brown sauce" by adding molasses. Don't be afraid to experiment. But for dishes like lo mein or chow mein or moo goo guy pan, the sauce is most often the last step in making the dish when a slurry is added in the final stage of cooking. In some dishes there is already plenty of liquid cooked out of the vegetables, so a broth would not be used beyond what is required to make the slurry. Sometimes the slurry is best made with water so as not to modify the delicate flavors of the ingredients already in the wok. Just depends on the dish and what you're after.

                      For me, wok cooking is most often an adventure because I cook by intuition and inspiration, even though I must have at least a dozen Chinese cook books. And too bad for me (usually) if I ever want the exact dish again, because if I don't write it down before finishing the meal, chances are it's a place I'll never go again! But who knows? Next time may be even better.

                      So now I have a question for all of you bona fide Chinese and/or Asian cooks out there. Is this the usual way to cook, or is it just me? Do you improvise a lot, based on what you have at hand? Are there any recipes you do exactly the same very time? Thanks! Just trying to figure out if I'm weird or not.

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        I am definitely the same as you with this stuff. Eyeballing is a big part of my method for cooking. Improvisation makes it fun. You KNOW how much of X is needed, and how much of X is too much. Like soy sauce for example. You have to use simple common sense. Too much will make your dish too salty / watery. Too much sesame oil will overpower everything else. Too much garlic will - well, there's really no such thing when it comes to chowing. The Chinese method of cooking "chow"ing that is. :-)

                        For danhole below, just a data point:

                        I generally use chow fun noodles, rice flakes, or rice thread noodles. I do not think this would be called a "lo mein" but a chow fun. The cooking method will be exactly the same, just a diff noodle, and prep of the noodle. When prepped correctly, you do get a nice (albeit different) "chew" from a rice noodle.

                        1. re: gordeaux

                          gordeaux,

                          thanks for the answer. I have seen 3 different type of lo mein.

                          1) very thin noodles, which I am guessing are the rice thread noodles, and the kind I prefer,

                          2) noodles that look like brown fettucini, which I suspect are wheat noodles,

                          3) noodles that look like spaghetti (doesn't look very good to me).

                          My daughter likes the lo mein that looks like fetticini, so if she wanted to could she substitute that, or do we need to go to an asian market?

                          1. re: danhole

                            The fettucini works fine for me. Most of the labels at my Asian markets have little to no English, so I have no idea -- well, other than looking -- what they're made of. Got some noodles made out of sweet potatoes one time. So the advantage of fettucini is that at least I know what I'm buying!

                            Oh, and the texture works well too. Or at least I've never had any complaints. Or leftovers. '-)

                            1. re: danhole

                              Are you describing the 3 noodles in their raw/packaged or cooked state?

                          2. re: Caroline1

                            I do have recipes since I learned those while taking Chinese cooking. The recipes are so good, I can't see what I could do to improve them. The one dish I've made different once in awhile is Fried Rice, meaning just the veggies vary from time to time. Or sometimes I use shrimp and sometimes Pork Char Siu. I love Chinese food, or Asian food for that matter, I want to make it like they do so I'll follow the recipes.

                            I have a Chicken Chow Mein recipe its pretty close to an authentic take out, its just delicious. And I'm craving it now.

                            1. re: chef chicklet

                              I can follow a recipe, and it's nice to know they're there if I need them. I think my cooking was marked by one of my childhood Christmases. My parents gave me a very elaborate chemistry set, assuming I would follow the booklet and do some well proven "experiements." Instead, I did experiment. Did my damndest to either turn lead into gold, or build the world's first cold fusion reactor. Didn't do either successfully, but I did make the house unihabitable without gas masks a couple of times. Little wonder I never got another chemistry set... But NO ONE can take my spice rack away!!! '-)

                              1. re: Caroline1

                                How funny!!! I guess I'm stifled a bit. Gotta tell ya those momofuku buns that they posted the other day make me wnat to just my recipe for steamed buns and just roll it thicker, and cut into that shape. See that's about it... but man that pork belly bun grabbed me!!! Ok get back to work and pass on more recipes doctor.

                            2. re: Caroline1

                              Hi Caroline1, just wanted to make a small clarification about chow mein. Authentic chow mein (i.e., Cantonese style) has noodles as the base of the dish, not on top of the dish. Cooked egg noodles are pan fried to make the edges crispy, placed on the platter, then the meat/veggies/sauce mixture gets poured on top. The noodles soak up the sauce, but the noodles around the outside edge that miss the sauce stay nice and crispy. The dish with the dry noodles sprinkled on top is a sad travesty imposed upon unsuspecting Westerners by LaChoy.

                              And to answer your question, yes, there are definitely real, classic recipes in Chinese cooking, just as with any other cuisine. Bad "westernized" Chinese restaurants may have people thinking that there is just one generic brown sauce that is used over and over, but that is really not the case. Each region in China has its own specialties and cooking style, and most don't even have a "brown" sauce in their repertoires. If you check out some good Chinese cook books that covers different regional cooking, you can get a sense of the wide variety of styles.

                              But, just to be clear, there is nothing wrong with how you're cooking. Just like there is a "classic" coq au vin in French cooking, there are infinite varieties that home and professional cooks create to make it their own. It's the joy of cooking!

                              1. re: TorontoJo

                                My nephew and I always joked about a theoretical North American chinese restaurant (on main street next to the pharmacy) in a town of 258 people in the middle of nowhere;

                                Boiled spaghetti tossed with VH soy sauce: Chinese Noodles
                                Fried Pork chop marinated in VH soy sauce: Chinese pork
                                Campbells Chicken Noodle Soup with La Choy soy sauce stirred in: House Special Chinese Soup
                                Fried Chicken Nuggets tossed in La Choy red sauce: Chinese Pineapple Chicken

                                NOTE: add tobasco to any dish for 'Szechuan Style"

                                Well you get the point '-)

                                1. re: TorontoJo

                                  Hi, TJ... Then maybe it's "chop suey" that you're supposed to put the fried crispy noodles on top of? I just don't remember.

                                  Yes, there are great regional differences in Chinese cooking, and to follow them faithfully also requires a great Chinese pantry! <g> I try to keep mine stocked, but I have to admit I'm almost always out of something and have to improvise.

                                  For anyone interested in "authentic" (if there really is such a thing) Chinese cooking, I highly recommend the near-encycolopedic book by Eileen Lin-Fey Lo simply called "Chinese Kitchen." I don't think it's possible to write a truly "encyclopedic" cookbook on Chinese cuisine in one volume! Maybe not even in twenty. But what I do treasure about her work is that she spends a great deal of time detailing different ingredients, even utensiles, and isn't afraid to recommend brands she thinks work well. A truly exceptional work.

                                  For variety and authencity, I also treasure the "Wei-Chuan Cooking Book" series. I have "Chinese Snacks" and "Chinese Cuisine," both by Huang Su Huei. Beutifully photographed with detailed instructions and mouth watering pictures of the dishes.

                                  Unfortunately, I seem to have lost my "best" Chinese cook book. It was a small, spiral bound volume written by an order of nuns in China, prior to WWII, as a fund raiser for their order. The thing I miss most about it is that it contains the best recipe for sweet and sour pork I have ever come across. Contrary to popular belief, sweet and sour is an authentic Chinese dish. It's just that they don't make it in the USA! This particular recipe used par boil whole pork ribs, then coated with corn starch and deep fried to crispy yet tender goodness, with a pungent dark brown sweet and sour sauce that took your breath away if you inhaled while taking it to your mouth. With cucumbers in the sauce. I can approximate it from memory, but really wish I could find it again to fine tune things!

                                  There are a lot of excellent Chinese cook books out there. However, once you have the basics down, sometimes it's just more fun to let my "mad scientist" complex have its way and strike out for new glory!

                                  And yes, there are dozens of Chinese "brown sauces." Don't know what else to call them, but a copy of "Chinese Kitchen" will send people in the right direction for many of them. A truly great cuisine!

                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    Could you please provide a full bibliographic citation for "Chinese Kitchen"? Google isn't picking it up.

                                    1. re: FoodFuser

                                      She likely means this book, here at amazon:

                                      http://www.amazon.com/Chinese-Kitchen...

                                      Hope that link works. Just search on Eileen Yin-Fei Lo

                                    2. re: Caroline1

                                      Honestly me, I've never used those dried noodles from a can. For me those have nothing to do with Chinese food as I know it.

                                      The chow mein I was taught was a fried noodle basket that is topped with the rest of the goodies. They are not so fried that you can' t mix it all up, they are just barely crispy, and the sauces softens it, and then I toss it all together and mix it up because that's what chow mein is here. Ya know, I don't think I know what lo mein is???

                                      I know it as chow mein and even that I'm sure varies regionally. I don't want to challenge anyone's recipe, because I do think we are going to get a gazillion variances. Mrs. Yu taught me the recipes she knows, and she cooks very similar to the Chinese food I've grown to love in the Bay Area. I feel so fortunate to have taken her classes, I love her style. I don't know if it's Cantonese, Mandarin or what, but she really emphazied the importance of using garlic and ginger in just about every dish we made.

                                      1. re: chef chicklet

                                        Don't believe I've ever seen "lo mein" on a West Coast menu. Here noodles mixed with stir-fried ingredients are called "chow mein" -- unless made with soft rice fun noodles, in which case they're called "chow fun". Seems to be a geographic semantics thing.

                                        1. re: Sharuf

                                          I went on my flickr accout did a search to see pics of lo mein and chow mein, they look identical to me....appears you are correct!

                                          1. re: chef chicklet

                                            While it's possible both dishes *may* have identical ingredients, there is a difference. Chow mein has the noodles prepared seperately from the rest, then the veggies and meat part is put on top of the noodles just before serving. For lo mein, the noodles are drained well, then added to the wok with the vegetables and meat, usually just before the slurry is added. The end result is that the noodles in lo mein have much more flavor than those in chow mein.

                                            And yes, I've seen (ordered) lo mein on the west coast. Not only in restaurants, but in the hot food section of my favorite Asian market, which has since closed. You have to look in the "Rice and Noodles" section of a menu to find it, whereas chow mein is often listed in the chicken section.

                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                              The only reason you have seen lo mein on Western menus is because Easterns think chow mein is a veggi meat mix served on crispy Chun King noodles, and the name is for easy understanding. I wouldn't use the hot food section of your Asian market as the bellwether of Chinese cuisine. Also, your description of chow mein is incorrect...you are describing "Hong Kong style" chow mein, where the noodles are fried first.

                                              1. re: OldTimer

                                                I think you haven't understood what I wrote. Here's a basic chow mein recipe:
                                                http://chinesefood.about.com/od/chowm...
                                                Note the final instruction for pouring the chow mein over the prepared noodles.

                                                Here's a lo mein recipe:
                                                http://chinesefood.about.com/od/chick...
                                                Note when the noodles are added to the wok? Before the slurry and sauce flavorings, just as I said.

                                                Hope this helps.

                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                  Hey girlfriend, I hate to quibble with you but I never see the noodles and stir-fry thingies served in separate layers around here (Bay Area). Chow mein (and chow fun) I get served are always commingled. The once-famous "beef chow mein with black bean sauce" served at the well-loved and long departed Jackson Cafe in SF Chinatown is a prize example.

                            3. What kind of noodles do you use?

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: danhole

                                danhole, I see that you asking a question about noodles which do you use but not sure who you were asking... here is a fun link, just to give you a look at some different noodles :) confusing-huh?

                                http://whiteonricecouple.com/blog/?pa...

                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                  chicklet,

                                  I was asking anyone who would answer! My daughter wants to make lo mein at home, but we aren't sure what kind of noodles to get. I had guessed that a fettucini was probably the best bet.

                                  Interesting link! Thanks.

                                  1. re: chef chicklet

                                    Very confusing! The fettucini-like (rice) noodles are called "fun" in cantonese, like for chow fun?

                                2. I don't know about the Midwest Chinese restaurants but for a cheap San Francisco Chinese restaurant version, besides the ingredients that you've used, add the following:
                                  a little dark soy sauce for color and sweetness
                                  chicken stock to help cook the vegetables and will give you some liquid for the gravy
                                  a good pinch of sugar
                                  sneak in some msg
                                  a few drops of sesame oil (optional)
                                  use medium thick fresh noodle.
                                  If yours come out too oily, you must be using too much oil since there are no other ingredients in your list that can cause that. If your wok is well seasoned, ingredients won't stick even if you use minimal oil. Skip marinating the chicken with cornstarch since that will only cause it to stick to the wok.

                                  1. Funny, the Sept/Oct issue of Cook's Illustrated is about this exact problem: duplicating take out lo mein. They wanted a pork-based version though, trying to replicate char siu by martinating pork tenderloin in soy sauce with liquid smoke. Copyright restrictions of course prevent me from wholesale copying over the recipe but I can tell you that they use a combination of soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, and five-spice powder. Cornstarch AND chicken broth add body. The dish is finished with chili-garlic sauce.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: kathryn

                                      I make mine very close to that recipe, I use both hoisin and oyster sauce with a touch of sesame.. something about it is so delicious. I once even added a teaspoon of peanut butter when I was feeling experimental. I can tell you one thing, EVERYONE in my house went bananas for it.

                                    2. Check out the Sept/Oct issue of Cook's Illustrated. They have an article/recipe for Pork Lo Mein. It looks really good.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Calipoutine

                                        I hope you see this! I was just meandering around your blog. I remember one show that they made, a Thai dish, and I think that was the - Pad Thai that you posted. It certainly looked delicious. And then.... and then I saw the Boston Cream Pie, and I got so excited I didn't even look to see if you posted a recipe. I'll go back and look, but that sure looked good!

                                        1. re: chef chicklet

                                          Hi, I see it : ). The pad Thai was good, but it didnt have that familar red color. The boston cream pie was great. I used Gale Gand's recipe from Foodtv.com. Did you notice that I made that for my very own bday? I think I might faint if someone baked me a cake. I need to hang out with people that know how to cook/bake, but its pretty rare where I live.

                                          1. re: Calipoutine

                                            Oh gosh, thank you for pointing me to the recipe! From your photo, it looked scrumptious. I don't eat a lot of sweets but I love Boston Cream Pie.

                                            No I didn't notice, I got so darb excited what I saw your cake, that I fliipped to chowhound to drop a note! You didn't see the pineapple msg, I left you so I wanted to talk with you whilst you were available and online today...But sheesh! How selfish of me! Happy Birthday (late I know...:)) I'd have to bake my own cake as well, so I know what you mean.

                                            Anyway. As far as the Pad Thai is concerned as long as it tastes good and you like it, that's all that matters anyway right? I seem to remember that they shortened the cooking steps considerably too.

                                            1. re: chef chicklet

                                              You could be late or you could be early : ) My bday is Dec 2nd. I think I baked that cake when I turned 39 and I'm 41( gasp) now.

                                              It was a good cake!! I might like to try CI's version since I seem to be on a CI kick at the moment. I have the pizza bianca ( latest issue) in the fridge resting. I'll finish it tomorrow.

                                      2. Sounds like you want more fat. That's what most people miss when they re-create restaurant food at home. More fat. A shocking amount of fat.

                                        1. There are several rules to making good lo mein (in your research, remember lo mein is East Coast for what Westerners call chow mein). Buy fresh Chinese thin chow mein noodles (often called "Hong Kong style"). Boil for about one minute (no more). Drain and rinse. Toss with a small amount of veg oil, and refrigerate, preferably overnight. For some strange reason, the noodles seem to keep cooking during that time. When you make your lo mein, saute the cold noodles in a small amount of oil (or preferably, chicken fat). A wok is preferable, but not mandatory. Let the noodles rest undisturbed on very high heat for several minutes. They may burn a little...no matter. Remove the noodles and prepare your meat and veggies. Season the meat/veg mix to your taste. When ready to serve, add noodles and mix over high heat. Consider using a few drops of mushroom soy sauce for flavor and color (ofter referred to as "thick soy sauce", but not the mollases type). Keep in mind that chow mein is a "throw-together" dish for late night after fan tan game. Like fried rice, the ingredients are usually leftovers. Do not worry that the noodles are undercooked.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: OldTimer

                                            >> Goya sauzon

                                            What? In Chinese Cooking?

                                            Take Her/His Pan Away From Them.

                                          2. Not about lo mein directly, but I accidentally stumbled onto something last week about fried rice, which may or may not help with lo mein in theory.

                                            I have been trying to duplicate both Lo Mein and basic fried rice for years now.
                                            Bear in mind I cook in seasoned cast iron every day.

                                            Anyway, I had cut some frozen pork up into small slivers then tossed it into a pretty hot cast iron skillet (10" Lodge) that is seasoned with Lard.
                                            It was just above the smoking point, which is where I generally cook meat and is about the same for a carbon steel wok.
                                            So anyway, I cooked the pork until just getting past the browned where some slight burning was about to take place...as soon as it starts getting dark like youd see on a grill its done.

                                            Take the pork out and let it cool, put it in some tupperware or something air tight and set it in the fridge for 3-4 days.
                                            Try a bite after 3 days and when its got that 'old refridgerator' sort of taste....like its no longer fresh, toss it in a hot pan with some cooked white rice.
                                            Before I even added a single ingredient you could taste the 'restaurant' taste.

                                            I read the history of fried rice and it makes sense because I guess fried rice is basically refrigerated leftover rice, etc.
                                            The wife was amazed. The woman wont eat anything chinese I cook because shes VERY particular about that taste. She gave the thumbs up on this one....and it only took about 5 YEARS to get it good enough.

                                            Add some soysauce and whatever veggies you normally use, but dont go too nuts adding spices, etc because it covers the taste really easily.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: gamer

                                              thanks for sharing this tip gamer.

                                              I wonder if this is why the fried rice I made yesterday with oldish pork belly (braised in tare for ramen) tasted like fried rice from a restaurant?

                                              I also salt the oil - I read this somewhere but I find it really seasons everything better.

                                            2. I still can't make this at home either

                                              all I can remember from my short time working in a chinese restaurant is oil in a hot wok, sear whatever meat you are using and add vegetables and toss very quickly, add the noodles and more oil, toss toss toss a few times until heated through and add the sauce and toss a few more times again

                                              the lo mein sauce was in the squirt bottle :P wish I asked what was in it

                                              maybe oyster sauce and some thick (black?) soy is my best guess-I would add sesame oil if I was making it myself and some fresh scallion shreds

                                              btw thanks for that recipe posted for brown sauce looks fantastic, will have to make some!

                                              I am hungry now!

                                              1. some of the tips in this thread call for hoisin, wouldn't that make the lo mein too sweet?

                                                1. no contest-dark soy 100%

                                                  -made lo mein tonight and just 1/2 teaspoon or so colored the noodles beautifully

                                                  unfortunately I dumped too much oyster sauce in before that because the color was so pale-i am sure it will still taste good but salty

                                                  anyway just a few very small splashes of dark soy - toss well- will make a huge difference imho

                                                  good luck

                                                  will post a pic

                                                  1. 1. Need to adjust cooking to home stove and pan.
                                                    2. Use thin flat bottom frying pan, non stick. medium size.
                                                    3. Gas burner best on high or electric pan/wok..
                                                    4. Wok is useless on western gas cooking ranges. Needs high flame from sides and center. leave it for restaurants.
                                                    5. Key: portion control!
                                                    6. Portion for one person at a time while cooking any Chinese dish. Needs high heat. Too much and food will stew.
                                                    7. Prep fat precooked round noodles - add to boiling water in pot, water boils again, strain, do not rinse with cold water. and return to (hot) pot . Add dark soy, sugar, salt, oyster sauce, mix, toss sesame oil.
                                                    8. Heat pan. add 2tbs peanut oil. Add garlic, spring onions greens, onion, cabbage, carrots, celery ( all sliced thinly). 1min. Add prepped noodles ( still warm) add bean sprouts, toss and stir fry till noodles are steaming hot. Add 1 tbs of boiling stock and sesame oil to finish. Done! Meat optional.