Chow Mein vs Lo Mein: A Friendly Comparison

When it comes to Chinese cuisine, you might find yourself wondering about the difference between chow mein and lo mein. These popular noodle dishes have made their way into hearts and restaurants around the world.

It’s easy to confuse the two, as they share many similarities: both feature Chinese egg noodles, various vegetables, and sometimes meat or tofu. But there are distinct differences in preparation and taste.

Chow mein translates to “fried noodles,” and it’s a dish characterized by stir-frying the noodles with the other ingredients. With a crispier texture, chow mein often features a thicker sauce or gravy to complement the crunch.

On the other hand, lo mein translates to “mixed noodles,” and the dish is all about tossing cooked noodles together with a flavorful sauce and other ingredients. In this case, the noodles are soft and full of flavor from absorbing the sauce.

chow mein recipe

Key Takeaways

  • Chow mein and lo mein are both popular Chinese noodle dishes with subtle differences in preparation and taste
  • Chow mein is stir-fried with a thicker sauce, while lo mein is tossed with a flavorful sauce
  • These two noodle dishes reflect the diverse culinary landscape of China and have made an impact in the US and Chinese diaspora

Understanding Chow Mein and Lo Mein

Chow mein and lo mein are both popular dishes in Chinese cuisine, particularly in the US. To appreciate the differences between these two types of noodles, let’s dive into their individual characteristics.

What is Chow Mein

Chow mein, which means “stir-fried noodles” in Chinese, is a dish that consists of wheat flour noodles stir-fried with various ingredients like vegetables, meat, or seafood. Here are the key features of chow mein:

  • Noodles are often parboiled before stir-frying.
  • They’re typically thin, crispy, and have a slightly chewy texture.
  • Usually served with a savory sauce, which can be thick or thin, depending on your preference.

Chow mein is often customized with different ingredients and sauces to cater to your taste buds. The dish’s origin can be traced back to Chinese cuisine, but it has been adapted in different countries to suit local palates.

What is Lo Mein

Lo mein, on the other hand, translates to “tossed noodles” and is made using soft, boiled wheat flour noodles. These are the primary characteristics of lo mein:

  • Noodles are fully cooked before being tossed with sauces and other ingredients.
  • The texture is soft and smooth, unlike chow mein’s crispiness.
  • It’s often served with a more liquid sauce that coats the noodles evenly.

Lo mein can also be made with a range of ingredients, including various types of meat, seafood, and vegetables, to create a flavorful and satisfying dish.

In summary, chow mein and lo mein both have their unique attributes, making them distinct and enjoyable in their own right. While they share the use of wheat flour noodles and some similar ingredients, their cooking methods, textures, and sauces set them apart in the world of Chinese cuisine.

Difference between Chow Mein and Lo Mein

Cooking Method

Chow Mein and Lo Mein both use egg noodles, but their cooking methods differ. Chow Mein noodles are parboiled, then fried to achieve a crispy texture. On the other hand, Lo Mein noodles are boiled and added directly to the dish with the other ingredients and sauce. This results in a softer texture.

Texture and Taste

As mentioned, the texture of chow mein noodles is crispy, which comes from frying them. The stir-frying process often includes vegetables such as bean sprouts, onions, cabbage, mushrooms, bell peppers, and carrots. Various types of meat or seafood (beef, pork, chicken, or shrimp) can be added for protein. The dish is flavored with ingredients like garlic, ginger, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sesame oil.

Lo mein, in contrast, has a softer texture due to the boiled noodles. The dish is often served with a sauce made from soy sauce, sugar, and cornstarch, poured over the cooked noodles and stir-fried vegetables. The types of vegetables and protein options are similar to chow mein, allowing for personal preference.

Healthy Aspects

When looking at the nutritional aspects of both dishes, there are some differences to consider. Chow Mein, being fried, typically contains more calories and fat than Lo Mein. The frying process also often uses more oil, which can increase the total fat and sodium content of the dish.

In contrast, Lo Mein is considered the healthier option due to its softer, boiled noodles and less oil usage in the dish. However, the sauce can still be high in sodium and sugar. To make it healthier, you can opt for low-sodium soy sauce and control the amount of sugar added.

Here’s a comparison of the nutritional aspects of both dishes:

AspectChow MeinLo Mein
CaloriesHigherLower
FatHigherLower
SodiumHigherVaries
ProteinSimilarSimilar
Dietary FiberSimilarSimilar
NiacinSimilarSimilar
Vitamin & Mineral ContentSimilarSimilar

Remember, you can always customize both dishes by adding more vegetables for extra fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Choose lean protein options like chicken or shrimp to reduce the total fat content. Be mindful of the sodium levels and try using low-sodium alternatives when possible.

Popular Variations

Protein Choices in Mein Dishes

When it comes to Chow Mein and Lo Mein, you have a variety of protein choices to customize your dish. Common options include chicken, beef, shrimp, and seafood. If you prefer a vegetarian or plant-based protein, tofu is a popular choice. Feel free to mix and match to create your ideal dish.

Vegetable Additions

Both Chow Mein and Lo Mein dishes can be packed with delicious vegetables to add both texture and flavor. Some popular vegetables for these dishes are:

  • Mushrooms, which provide a rich umami flavor.
  • Onions, garlic, and cabbage, offering a savory taste.
  • Carrots, bean sprouts, bell peppers, and bok choy, bringing both crunch and color.
  • Broccoli is another common veggie that complements the dish.

You can even get creative with your veggies to cater to your personal preference.

Sauce Variations

The sauces used in Chow Mein and Lo Mein dishes can vary, but they typically feature soy sauce as a base. Other popular ingredients to enhance the flavor include oyster sauce and various combinations of sauces and broth. Some recipes use thicker, more flavorful sauce, while others prefer a lighter sauce. Adjusting the sauce to your taste preferences is essential to ensure your Chow Mein or Lo Mein dish is perfect for you.

How to Prepare Chow Mein and Lo Mein

In this section, you will learn how to prepare two popular Chinese dishes: Chow Mein and Lo Mein. Both dishes feature noodles, vegetables, and proteins, but they differ in flavor, texture, and cooking methods. Let’s dive into the process of making each dish.

Preparing Chow Mein

Chow Mein is known for its crispy-fried noodles and flavorful stir-fried ingredients. Follow these steps to create a delicious Chow Mein dish:

  1. Noodles: Start by boiling egg noodles according to the package directions. Once cooked, drain and set them aside.
  2. Vegetables and Protein: Choose your favorite protein (chicken, beef, seafood, or tofu) and vegetables like onions, cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, bell peppers, broccoli, or mushrooms. Cut them into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Stir-fry: Heat oil in a skillet or wok over high heat, then add minced garlic and ginger. Add your protein and stir-fry it until cooked through. Next, add your vegetables and continue to stir-fry until they are tender.
  4. Sauce: Mix together soy sauce, oyster sauce, and any other desired sauces. Pour the sauce over your stir-fry.
  5. Fried Noodles: Heat a thin layer of oil in a separate skillet or wok. Add boiled noodles and let them fry until they reach your desired level of crispiness. Turn them occasionally to ensure even frying.
  6. Combine: Place the fried noodles on a plate and spoon the stir-fried vegetables and protein along with the sauce on top of the noodles.

Preparing Lo Mein

Lo Mein features soft, boiled wheat flour noodles mixed with stir-fried ingredients. Here’s how to prepare a tasty Chicken Lo Mein dish:

  1. Noodles: Boil wheat flour noodles as per the package instructions. Drain and set them aside.
  2. Vegetables and Protein: Dice your chicken into bite-sized pieces, and chop vegetables like onions, cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, bell peppers, broccoli, or mushrooms.
  3. Stir-fry: Heat oil in a skillet or wok over high heat, then add minced garlic and ginger. Add the diced chicken and stir-fry until cooked through. Add your vegetables to the skillet and continue to stir-fry until tender.
  4. Sauce: Combine soy sauce, oyster sauce, and any additional sauces in a small bowl. Pour the sauce mixture into the skillet with the cooked protein and vegetables.
  5. Combine: Add the boiled noodles to the skillet with the stir-fried ingredients and sauce. Toss everything together to ensure the noodles are evenly coated with the sauce and ingredients are well-distributed.

By following these steps, you can create both Chow Mein and Lo Mein dishes to enjoy with friends and family. Happy cooking!

Impact in the US and Chinese Diaspora

When exploring the world of Chinese cuisine, you’ll come across a variety of delicious noodle dishes. As a fan of these dishes, you might have noticed that chow mein and lo mein are especially popular in the United States and the Chinese diaspora.

Both chow mein and lo mein have their roots in northern China, even though they have been adapted to suit the tastes of people in different locations. As you may know, lo mein is a soft noodle dish made by boiling the noodles and then tossing them with flavorful stir-fry ingredients. On the other hand, chow mein noodles are usually stir-fried until they are crispy, creating a unique texture.

The US and Chinese diaspora have warmly embraced these dishes. Chow mein has become the go-to dish for many who enjoy a good takeout meal, while lo mein has garnered a dedicated following for its satisfying, comforting taste. As these dishes become more popular, chefs and home cooks alike continue experimenting with various ways to make them, including using different proteins, vegetables, and sauces.

In conclusion, chow mein and lo mein have had a significant impact on the culinary scene in the United States and the Chinese diaspora. Through their unique flavors and textures, both dishes successfully highlight the diversity and rich history of Chinese cuisine. So the next time you’re craving a flavorful stir-fry, remember to consider trying some chow mein or lo mein for a satisfying meal.

chicken Chow Mein

What is Chow Mein? - Chicken Chow Mein Recipe

Chicken chow mein is one of the popular homemade dishes. It takes about 20 minutes and can be cooked with most of the vegetables you have in your fridge.
5 from 7 votes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 4
Calories 277 kcal

Ingredients
  

The main chow mein ingredients for this recipe are exactly the same as we have listed before but with chicken. In short, you need:

  • Vegetables e.g., carrots, broccoli, bell peppers, green onions, garlic, etc.
  • Noodles
  • Chicken filet
  • Sauce

Instructions
 

In a few steps, your chicken chow mein is ready to be served for dinner:

  • Prepare the sauce by combining oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and oyster sauce.
  • Cut the chicken into small pieces and cook them on medium heat.
  • Cook chow mein noodles (or a substitute), drain, and set aside.
  • Slice and sauté vegetables together with the chicken for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the noodles and stir-fry them for another few minutes.
  • Pour just a bit of sauce on noodles to soften them.
  • Serve and enjoy your dinner!

This recipe is truly versatile because of the range of vegetables you can add and substitute chicken with shrimp, tofu, pork, or anything else.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 277kcal
    Keyword chicken chow mein, chow mein recipes
    Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What are the main differences between chow mein and lo mein?

    The main difference between chow mein and lo mein lies in the cooking method. Chow mein noodles are stir-fried, giving them a crispy texture, while lo mein noodles are boiled and then tossed with sauce, resulting in a softer texture.

    Which dish is considered healthier, chow mein or lo mein?

    Both chow mein and lo mein can be healthy or unhealthy, depending on their ingredients and preparation method. Typically, lo mein is considered slightly healthier due to less oil being used in its preparation. However, you can make either dish healthier by opting for whole grain noodles, more vegetables, and lean protein.

    What variations of ingredients can be found in chow mein and lo mein?

    Both chow mein and lo mein can be customized with a variety of ingredients. Common ingredients include chicken, beef, shrimp, tofu, and various vegetables like onions, bell peppers, cabbage, and bean sprouts. The sauces can also vary, ranging from soy sauce-based to oyster sauce or hoisin sauce.

    How are the noodles prepared differently in chow mein and lo mein?

    In chow mein, the noodles are first parboiled, then stir-fried with oil to achieve a crispy texture. For lo mein, the noodles are boiled until soft, then tossed with the sauce and mixed with other ingredients, giving them a softer texture.

    Which type of noodles are best suited for making lo mein?

    Egg noodles or wheat-based noodles are best suited for making lo mein. They have a slightly chewy texture and can easily absorb the sauce. You can also use rice noodles or udon noodles, but the final result may differ slightly from a traditional lo mein.

    What are some popular dishes that are similar to chow mein and lo mein?

    Similar dishes to chow mein and lo mein include pad thai, yakisoba, and jajangmyeon. These dishes also feature noodles as the main ingredient, but their preparation methods and ingredients vary according to regional or cultural influences.

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    Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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