HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >


CHOW MEIN - not Lo Mein!!

  • h

Okay, am I crazy do people in LA think lo mein is chow mein? I can't find a place that makes a good chow mein - the kind in white sauce with cabbage and celery, NO NOODLES! I called my local place last night and I asked what the difference was...ANSWER: Chow mein is like lo mein but has no soy sauce. What? Went to another place and the chow mein had a few pieces of celery and cabbage, and a whole lot of noodles. Help! Does anyone know where I can find what I'm looking for? Pregnant and desperate over here.

  1. And one more thing...the closer to the Southbay the better.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Heather

      Well, so much for Bamboo!

    2. Hate to disappoint you, but LA-style Chow Mein is actually Chinese-style Chow Mein. "Mein" means noodles in Cantonese, so Chow Mein must, by deinition, be a noodle dish. Serving Chow Mein without noodles is like serving fried rice ("Chow Faan" in Cantonese) without rice.

      11 Replies
      1. re: bobcat

        Maybe you're right, I mean it sounds right (the whole mein noodle thing) but I find it strange that i lived in NY for 9 years and that's the way they served it - no noodles, the same goes for San Fran and Texas, and all the other places I've been to. I'm a flight attendant so I've been to a lot of places. LA is the only place that makes it with noodles.

        So then....what would I order if I want the cabbage, celery, white sauce dish? Someone said Suki Yaki, but that's not it. I love Suki Yaki....unless of course the LA Suki Yaki is different out here, too.


        1. re: Chandavkl

          Try the Chinese lunch counter located inside the Grand Central Market in Downtown LA - on the western side; it's the kind of place you stand around and wait for someone to get up off a stool. Nary an Asian face to be seen, but popular as hell for a cheap "Asian" lunch.

          Link: http://www.grandcentralsquare.com/

          1. re: Heather

            My FIL came to visit us when we lived in Pittsburgh and was just baffled when he ordered chow mein and it came with no noodles. He speaks Mandarin and asked the restaunt owners about it and they told him, in Pittsburgh, chow mein doesn't come with noodles.

            So, maybe the American-ized places like Kung Pao Bistro on Ventura in Studio City will do things the 'NY style'????

            1. re: igj

              What I'm looking for is def not "NY STYLE", although they do serve it the way I'm looking for all over queens, manhattan, and brooklyn - not in chinatown. I know what I"m looking for is americanized...and I can't find it at any of the americanized places in LA...hmmmmm....what does that tell you. HA!

              1. re: Heather

                Ooops - sorry..meant to say 'east coast style.' Pittsburgh is NOT NY (believe me, I know!).

            2. re: Heather

              Okay wait. I am from the San Francisco Bay Area and I've NEVER had chow mein without noodles until I moved to the midwest. I don't know where in the City you get your Chinese food, but San Francisco is like the Chinese capital of the US and there's no way they'd serve it without noodles. Perhaps a midwesterner opened a Chinese place at the airport or something? Or maybe it was a flight special?

              order chop suey. it's what you're looking for.

              1. re: theladyboo

                Bingo. You're looking for chop suey.

                1. re: theladyboo

                  I think the confusion is due to companies like long-gone Chung King who used to have this canned Chicken Chow Mein product in supermarkets. It was actually 2 cans taped together. First can had chop suey (which was mostly el-cheapo bean sprouts). Second can contain deep-fried pieces of noodles that you served on the side or on top.

                  1. re: theladyboo

                    Seconding that. Also from San Francisco, went to school in Chinatown, and grew up eating plenty of chow mein, always with noodles.

                2. re: bobcat

                  What I think the OP is looking for is the Cantonese style chow mein that we had back east. It's a celery sauce with chicken or pork or whatever, and it's served over crispy noodles. (Well, it's s'posed to be...I always put it over rice and put the crispy noodles on top! lol)

                  1. re: jespeach

                    We took a friend of ours who is originally from SFO to Sea Harbour for dim sum. He said that he really missed the type of chow mein that he always had on the way home from school. Whenever he ordered chow mein with crispy noodles in LA, he was always disappointed. He described it to the manager, they made it, he tried it, and he said it was better than what his memory recalled from back home... The manager said it is chow mein with crispy noodles. The Cantonese name "leong min wong," roughly translated into English is, "two-sided yellow," referring to the noodles. Don't know if this is the same type that SFO folks are looking for but it definitely got the stamp of approval from at least one of their brethren.

                3. There's a place on Venice Blvd. in Mar Vista that serves what you are after. I think they call it chop suey rather than chow mein, but you'd have to inquire. They also have old school egg foo young. Unfortunately, I forget the name of the place -- 'hounds?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: DanaB

                    Canton Kitchen
                    12511 Venice Blvd,
                    Los Angeles, CA 90066
                    (310) 398-0030

                    FYI I was always told the difference between Chow and Lo was Chow had Fried Crispy Noodles with it.

                  2. Folks-

                    We are going to ask that you confine the discussion here on where to find chow mein, or lo mein, or any other specific dish. But discussion on what is or is not chow mein or lo mein is off topic for this board. Please continue any further discussion about what a specific dish is comprised of on the General Topics board, where we discuss cuisines and food in general terms.

                    Thanks for helping us keep the focus of the L.A. board on where to find great food served in the L.A. area.

                    Link: http://www.chowhound.com/boards/gener...

                    1. I know exactly what you're looking for - the chow mein of my Los Angeles childhood. It had veggies, and bean sprouts, and some kind of meat (chicken or pork most usually) in a cornstrach-thickened sauce. You might be able to still find it at Paul's Kitchen on San Pedro in downtown LA.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: LBQT

                        YES! That's it. (From my childhood, too) Thank you so much. May have to leave my 2 mile radius now.


                        1. re: Heather

                          At the very least, that dish will have the crunchy fried noodles on top, which makes it a version of chow mein (ok chao mian or I'll never hear the end of it.)
                          The invention in 19th century california of the vegetables and meat of real chow mein without noodles led to the use of chop suey (cha sui?), which I think literally means miscellany, or miscellaneous ingredients. It was chow mein without the mein. It was incredibly popular in the West and all over the US. Chop suey is chow mein without the noodles. LATER, some restaurateurs would add literal deep fried noodles (which wouldn't be chow noodles, which are stir fried, but the cantonese veriosn of Zha - deep fried) on top so it would kinda be chow mein.

                          Far east Cafe used to have it. Just look on the menu, ask for chop suey and you'll be happy as a clam. I also think Phoenix Inn in Chinatown has it. And the places in China City in San Pedro if they're still around would have it.
                          I think far east cafe is reopening.

                          1. re: Jerome

                            I love you, Jerome. Thanks for the chow mein lesson. (How do you know all that?)


                            1. re: Jerome
                              Hugh Lipton 4949fanz@msn.com

                              I believe one of the problems here is that, as far as I know, the word mein means noodles. Moving along, however, I believe Bamboo on Ventura and Hazeltine serves Chop Suey which should not have any noodles. They also do serve the dried noodles on the side.

                              1. re: Hugh Lipton 4949fanz@msn.com

                                yes. And some places used to deep fry noodles and scatter atop the chop suey.

                                Now back to who in town makes the best yangrouchuan - with or without cumin.

                                1. re: Jerome

                                  How can you make yang rou chaunr without cumin?!? That's just un-American! :-)

                        2. Went to Foo Chow on Hill Street in Chinatown for lunch today. My Chinese grandmother wanted chicken curry lo mein(not fried noodles, but soft noodles). No problem--it wasn't on the menu but the waiter said chicken curry lo mein...soft noodles not fried noodles. "Chow" means to fry. "Mein" is noodles.
                          Originally being from NYC it was always called lo mein. When I came out here and ordered lo mein for the first time somewhere I got a side of soft noodles, side of soup broth and a side order of BBQ pork. What they call it out here is chow mein.
                          What you probably want with no noodles is chop suey.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: K

                            All this chow mein/lo mein talk has reminded me of a dish I used to see frequently at Midwest Chinese restaurants called Yetcamein (occasionally referred to in more proper Cantonese as Yat Gaw Mein), probably best described as lo mein with a soupy sauce. Has anybody seen this dish locally lately? I sure haven't.

                            1. re: Chandavkl

                              I know what you're talking about but never knew that's what they called it.
                              Go to an old style Cantonese restaurant like Won Kok on Alpine & Spring in Chinatown and ask for it. They'll know what you're talking about. I saw them serve some kind of noodle dish in a big soup bowl--noodles and stuff were swimming in some kind of gravy sauce with seafood mixed in.

                          2. Hi Heather, I laughed when I saw your post, you are asking the same question that my friend (also from NY) keeps asking me. You do have to ask for Chop Suey and you do need to ask for fried noodles on the side. Ask for Chop Suey at Hop Li in West Los Angeles. I am pretty sure I was able to find it there once for my friend. I know WLA is far from south bay, but desperate times may call for desperate measures.

                            Hop Li
                            10974 W Pico Blvd
                            Los Angeles, CA 90064-2115
                            Phone: (310) 441-3708

                            1. If you still can't find it and want to make the hike over the hill, Uncle Chen's restaurant in Encino purports to have NY Chinese food. I'd probably call them first. I went there years ago in search of an egg roll (don't get me started) and they made one for me (off-menu as I recall). Egg roll people don't start running, I don't remember it being all that great.

                              I'm from Queens and chow mein was my introduction to Chinese food (Sun Luck Flushing anyone?) I was glad to leave it behind, but I hope you find yours!

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: lad1818

                                All those NY-style egg rolls are here in Orange County. Do a search for the Great NY Egg Roll Hunt (or something like that) -- I've done the research already. :)

                                Edit: I found the page -- http://www.chowhound.com/topics/370251 -- and it was at Yang Ming that I found the best. New Moon in Montrose was close, but they use chicken instead of pork.

                                1. re: lad1818

                                  eew, Uncle Chen's is gross!

                                2. Hey Heather,
                                  the call it chop suey at Nim Chan's on Western in san pedro near 25th.
                                  It is a whole in the wall mostly take out run by a very nice family.
                                  It can be made shrimp, por, chicken or beef, or house special, which combines them, but it is primarily vegetables. It is not lo mein and not chow mein as in LA. But more like the chow mein of NYC. I know, I grew up there.

                                  1. What the OP is referring to as "chow mein" is actually "chop suey." Chow mein always has noodles in it - you can't have chow mein without noodles or else it isn't real chow mein. Chop suey is the stuff that has no noodles and has the celery and cabbage and white (actually it is a grayish white) sauce.

                                    1. Congrats Heather and my thanks for your post and all the hounds who figured out what you crave – Chop Suey. Guess what we are having tonight (My wife made the pick-up and is on the way home as I write). We ordered Chicken Chop Suey, beef tomato Lo mein and chicken fried rice from Wang’s. If you are ever at the north end of the 605 on a Friday night maybe enjoy walking the farmers market on Myrtle Ave., Monrovia and have dinner at Wang’s. Great real Americanized “Chow” for real American Chowhounds.

                                      Americanized Chop suey

                                      Americanized Genghis Khan

                                      Wang's Palace
                                      423 S Myrtle Ave
                                      Monrovia, CA 91016-2811
                                      (626) 303-3701

                                      1. Same thing in Orlando!! I have been ordering Chow Mein for 50 of my 60 years and know exactly what you are talking about. And you are right, authentic Chow Mein does not have those brown greasy noodles. I had to fly back to Champaign IL to eat at the last remaining authentic Chinese restaurant ( The Tea Garden) and now it is gone! Bean Sprouts, Chinese (not American) celery, water chestnuts, and the white sauce. This is NOT SLOP CHEWY, it is really Chow Mein. But as with all things good, it does not exist anymore, at least in Orlando!

                                        1. What are you talking about? "Mein" means noodles in chinese. Lo=mix, Chow=fried.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: mfullmer

                                            You think the OP is speaking Chinese. The OP is speaking 'Merican

                                          2. chao 炒 means fry.

                                            chaofan炒飯 (fried rice)
                                            chaomian: 炒麵 (fried noodle)

                                            炒的 is fried (chaode)

                                            lo is not Mandarin.

                                            mian 麵 is noodle.

                                            look on the menu and see if 炒 character accompanies the Cantonese (粤語) word 'lo'.

                                            You can find catonese here:


                                            1. i lived in san francisco for almost a decade and would have starved to death if it wasn't for chow mein and all the other dishes that were served to me in china town there.
                                              (it was all i could afford. this predated fast food agribusiness taking over every corner)

                                              chow mein always came with noodles.

                                              1. Also, there are differing styles, and no consistency.

                                                I had chaomian in a fuzhou people owned venue just yesterday. It was noodle fried.

                                                I stated I wanted dry noodle using Mandarin.

                                                This is dry noodle: 干面

                                                The woman stated, "how about fried"....

                                                I agreed to having fried noodle.

                                                1. here is my Fuzhou style chao mian:

                                                  1. I never knew this, but here it is

                                                    撈 lao

                                                    麵 mian

                                                    撈麵 lao mian

                                                    in Cantonese Lo Mein (I think).

                                                    So it is different from Chao Mian.

                                                    wikipedia has mention of this dish.

                                                    1. Folks, we're going to close this thread from 2006, as it's heading back into retreading the topic of what chow mein really is, and that's not really a Los Angeles-specific topic. There's a thread on the General Topics board that's been recently active on that topic, so if you have more thoughts to share, head over here http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/629916