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Aug 3, 2012 08:06 PM

Has Anyone Tried Chow Mein Lately?

Has anyone tried Chow Mein lately from a chinese restauarant? Was it like the La Choy Chow Mein in a can with the yellowish white sauce that looks kinda like chicken broth? Thanks.

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  1. I haven't seen chow mein on a restaurant menu in ages, or lo mein either. Many noodle dishes of course, and some of them might have been called chow mein in the '50s, I wouldn't know. As a name, and maybe also as a dish, it seems to have gone the way of chop suey.

    4 Replies
    1. re: John Francis

      I see lo mein on every local Chinese restaurant menu here in the greater NY metro area. I have noticed chow mein on a few menus as well.

      1. re: roxlet

        Hi. I'm in NY too, and Lo Mein, Chow Mein, and Chop Suey are on every chinese menu in the area. John Francis- what do they call the noodle dishes in your area? Do they just say noodles and then describe them? I would actually prefer that, the menus here don't give any descriptions, so you never know what you are going to get! Thanks.

        1. re: JolokiaJen

          Here in central New Jersey, Lo Mein (soft) and Chow Mein (crispy) are common.. almost de rigueur. Of course, so is krab rangoon.... we have no pretensions!

      2. re: John Francis

        Here in Indy I don't think I've NOT seen "Chow Mein" and "Lo Mein" on the menus of Americanized Chinese restaurants.

      3. From which coast? (USA) C-A restaurant or C-C restaurant?

        You might be interested in reading this old thread:

        p.s. C-A = Chinese-American; C-C = "Chinese-Chinese"

        1. There is a regional difference in the US between the East and West Coast use of the term "chow mein." On the East Coast, "chow mein" is always the crispy or Hong Kong style. The steamed style using soft noodles is a separate dish called "lo mein". On the West Coast, "chow mein" is always the steamed style, the crispy style is "Hong Kong style".

          The above quote is
          from Wikipedia under "chow mein"..subheading " American Chinese versions." I didn't realize on the West Coast they don't use the term " lo mein"

          14 Replies
          1. re: rochfood

            Yes - when you *do* get "mein" in your Chow Mein, that is, rather than that gloopy mixture of bean sprouts with various veggies and meat-of-your-choice, with the "crispy bits" (deep-fried noodles) on the side or scattered over it. This is the C-A dish, of course, in certain parts of the US East Coast. See the link I posted above to an earlier discussion: .

            1. re: huiray

              Thanks for the link, very interesting that Chow Mein means different things in different states. I would love to try Cantonese Chow Mein with the noodles. It sounds similar to Lo Mein, which I love.

              1. re: JolokiaJen

                Well, Cantonese Chow Mein in a C-C restaurant would - to me - imply a dish where the noodles (actual real noodles) are pan-fried so they are crispy before having a "sauce" of veggies (and/or just scallions and ginger) and meat/protein poured over it. This is NOT "lo mein".

                1. re: huiray

                  What kind of sauce is on the Cantonese Chow Mein? Is it like the Lo Mein brown sauce that looks like soy sauce? There is only one chinese restaurant in my town that has the Cantonese Chow Mein on the menu. I'll have to order it sometime.

                  1. re: JolokiaJen

                    It's the sauce from the cooking of whatever meat/veg that has been used, perhaps thickened *slightly* from a little corn starch (or tapioca starch) added at the end. There is no "single" definite "sauce" used for this chow mein, unlike what one would think of as a bearnaise or whatever sauce where the constitution of the sauce is unchanged.

                      1. re: JolokiaJen

                        Maybe a touch, depending on the chef - but, generally, NO; or at least it is NOT a primary ingredient if it is one at all. OTOH C-A "chow mein" (e.g. in a C-A restaurant) may well have a fair bit of soy sauce.

                        1. re: huiray

                          It's interesting, in the other thread that you posted the link to, it says that Lo Mein is called Chow Mein in California. Is this true?

                          1. re: JolokiaJen

                            The definitive Hong Kong style stir fried noodle is "soya sauce noodles" or "soy sauce king stir fried noodles" 豉油皇炒麵. You can get this at any dim sum restaurant as a starch dish, or any place that serves noodle soups, rice plates, and congee (has to be Cantonese style Chinese restaurant). It is a meatless dish, and the true measurement of a great quality stir fried noodle is the chef's wok stir fry skills. Hong Kong people love to use this plate as an excuse to add a lot of chili sauce to it. Onions, two different types of soy sauce, sesame seeds, scallions, bean sprouts, sugar, a little sesame oil. The hotter the temperature of the dish, generally the more delicious it is (must be eaten piping hot). This noodle is by default NOT crispy. In Hong Kong if you want your noodles crispy you should specify, unless you order the version that has bean sprouts, mushrooms, julienne pork, and young yellow chive...that plate by default is crispy...but in the USA you have to specify crispy noodles or else you get non crispy in many places.

                            Lo mein, as it is known in Hong Kong, is basically blanced egg noodles with no broth (the broth is served on the side to drink separately or you can dip the noodles in the broth). "Lo" just means to "mix" or to "toss" (like a salad). You could basically "lo" any liquid with noodles....even lard, which was once done out of necessity rather than revival trend of deliciousness (and sentimentality), where the lard gives the noodles additional texture. I've never had American Chinese lo mein but it looks more like a sauteed spaghetti with ketchup from the wikipedia entry.

                            The dark brown sauce you might see is cornstarch thickened soy sauce with some sugar and other things, usually used with "wet stir fried" chow fun sauce in authentic Cantonese (non Americanized) settings.

                            1. re: K K

                              Interesting, indeed!

                              OTOH, as a general comment [not directed specifically at you, KK] if one googles "廣式炒麵" ("Cantonese style fried noodles") one would see in the images that the crispy versions with sauces that aren't too dark predominate and are also reflected in the recipes in the answer set. (The browner sauces would probably have oyster sauce and some soy sauce) Of course, this becomes the default if one specified "廣式香炒麵" (Cantonese style fragrant fried noodles). :-)

                              In many cases it may be best, if one can communicate sufficiently with the waitstaff, to ask how "chow mein" is prepared in an establishment unless there is a clear picture of the dish on the menu!

                              ETA: @JolokiaJen:
                              There are also many varieties of "mixed"/"tossed" noodles in SE Asia and elsewhere which are called "dry mixed/tossed noodles" or "kon lo mein" where the soft-boiled** egg noodles are tossed with a sauce of some sort, such as a dark soy sauce/oyster sauce formulation with or without minced meat (pork or beef) or shredded chicken [often in a more "white" sauce] or other sauces depending on what the restaurant's "specialty" is. This is then served with "complements" including other meats (like char-siu) and/or blanched veggies (like yu-choy a.k.a. choy-sum) with or without (usually with) a bowl of broth alongside, including bowls of wontons in broth if one wished and the restaurant or food stall offered it.

                              ETA2: @JolokiaJen:
                              The term "kon lo" ("dry tossed/mixed") is also used for almost any other type of starch/noodles, including rice noodles ("fun") of varying shapes and sizes (including something called "老鼠粉" which look like rat droppings :-) ). Typically, where one can get a dish in either in the "dry tossed" form or in the "soupy" form (i.e. noodles IN a bowl of soup with all the other stuff in the same bowl) one then specifies which one you want.
                              The term "kon chow" is equivalently used, again for almost any kind of noodles, not just "mein", where the expectation is that the final dish would be sort-of on the dry-ish side where the noodles are not coated with or not semi-swimming in a significant amount of sauce.

                              ** Especially when "wonton egg noodles" or the skinny-type egg noodles are used, they should still be "springy" with lots of texture (reminiscent of but NOT the same as "al dente". There is a "bounce" when one bites into it, distinct from the "al dente" mouth-feel). It is a measure of the skill of the noodle maker that such noodles do have those characteristics when cooked properly (usually pretty briefly) rather than slide immediately into a soft non-"springy" texture.

                              1. re: huiray

                                Hi. Do you know where I could find a photo of Cantonese style fragrant fried noodles? I tried googling it, but couldn't find anything with the word fragrant in it.

                                1. re: JolokiaJen

                                  Google the phrase 廣式香炒麵 then look at the "images" for it.
                                  Here's the first one in the answer set:

                                  Alternatively, google the "English-ized equivalent" phrase "Cantonese style pan fried noodles".

                                  Also google the shorter phrase 廣式炒麵 and also look at the images.

                                  1. re: huiray

                                    Thanks. That looks exactly like the Chow Mein in NY, but with noodles. It has the same sauce that looks like chicken broth.

                                2. re: huiray

                                  I have gotten a few dishes that were swimming it sauce, I hate that! I like the sauce to be cooked on like Lo Mein.

            2. As a little sprout growing up, "Chow Mein" was just a mess of vegetables & meat of some type in a cornstarch-thickened sauce with no noodles at all except for the dry-fried ones that one crunched up & sprinkled on top.

              I've never ordered it in a restaurant, having moved on to more interesting stuff.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Bacardi1

                This is exactly what I know it to be and still do. I'm in the NY/NJ area and every Chinese restaurant I've ever been to makes it only this way. Pretty much a white sauce, not brown.

                If there were soft noodles in that dish they sure did a good job of hiding them.

                BTW - I have not eaten this dish since I'm a child. Didn't care for it then either.

                1. re: sivyaleah

                  What both you and Bacardi1 ate is the American-Chinese (or Chinese-American) concoction called "Chow Mein". It is not real Chinese food. See the other thread referenced in another post: .

              2. I'll have to try chow mein again. I too have always carried a memory of it from childhood as a bland & unappealing mush that I've had no desire to revisit. Still, back in the 80s I used to go to a place in Manhattan just off Columbus called Ying's. It's long gone now, sadly, but they served a family of dishes called Pan Fried Noodles that was just delectable and which I've never been able to forget. I've also never been able to find that particular type of dish again. These were flat noodles about half an inch wide, stir-fried with vegetables and meat until almost crispy, with just a little bit of savory and fragrant sauce. Wonderful texture and a true delight for the palate all around. I sampled chow fun and mei fun from various places but they weren't even close. Maybe chow mein is what I've really been searching for and I never knew it.

                5 Replies
                1. re: eclecticsynergy

                  In Upstate NY they only serve regular Chow Mein with those crispy canned noodles, not real noodles. I want to try the Cantonese Chow Mein that has been mentioned in this thread, apparently that one has pan fried real noodles. I only know of one restaurant in my town that sells it. My personal favorite is Vegetable Lo Mein. In NY this is soft noodles with veggies in a little bit of delicious brown sauce, not soupy. Then there is Chow Fun which is really wide noodles, and Mai Fun the skinny little rice noodles, which I haven't tried yet. I also want to try Singapore Mai Fun, that's the skinny rice noodles with spicy curry.

                  1. re: JolokiaJen

                    Hey, JolokiaJen. Where are you in upstate NY? I'm in Albany and would love to find a place that'll do the Cantonese style pan fried noodles. If the restaurant you mention is anywhere near here, please post the name and location. Thanks.

                    1. re: eclecticsynergy

                      It's a few hours from you, Massena, NY at the China Doll

                      1. re: JolokiaJen

                        Thanks Jen. If I pass by that way I'll check it out.

                    2. re: JolokiaJen

                      "I also want to try Singapore Mai Fun, that's the skinny rice noodles with spicy curry."
                      Not sure what you are referring to here but keep this post on another thread in mind: