Learn how to make a Chicken Chow Mein that really does taste as good as what you get at Chinese restaurants. It all comes down to the sauce, and contrary to some recipes you may come across, it is made with more than just soy sauce and sugar!
Chow Mein is probably the most universally popular stir fried noodles in the whole wide world. And it is honestly faster to make it at home than ordering take out. Plus, it’s jam packed with a surprising amount of veggies. I truly believe that this is the ultimate hidden veggies meal!!!
Chicken Chow Mein is one of my all time favourite stir fried noodles. And that’s saying something because there is some heavy hitting noodle competition in this big wide world. Pad See Ew (the hugely popular Thai Stir Fried Noodles), Singapore Noodles, Yakisoba (Japanese noodles – the recipe will be on my mother’s blog when she launches it!!), Pad Thai – to name just a few of my other favorites.
But Chicken Chow Mein is the noodles that I make the most not only because I love it so much, but because:
a) It’s seriously loaded with veggies so it’s a well rounded meal. There are 4 cups of cabbage alone, plus carrots, bean sprouts and shallots/spring onions;
b) Cabbage keeps for ages and it’s the key vegetable in this and I pretty much always have some because it lasts for ages and ages in the fridge;
c) Versatile – I can toss any veggies and proteins I want into it; and
d) It can be made with Charlie. For those who are unfamiliar with Charlie, he is my secret weapon all purpose REAL Chinese Stir Fry Sauce which keeps for ages and I always have a jar of him in the fridge. You can get the recipe for him here – and also find out why I named him Charlie (I bet you snigger!). So I’ve provided the recipe to ways – from scratch and using Charlie.
One quick preparation tip: I don’t know if this is right or the “best” way, but this how I julienne carrots that I find fast and easy (and safe).
- Slice carrots on the diagonal, then fan them out in a line so they are kind of overlapping;
- Starting from the right (I’m right handed), I use my left Baby Hand to lightly stabilise the carrots with my fingertips (hold the fingers almost vertical so the knife can’t chop off your fingers!);
- Keep the tip of the knife on the cutting board then “rock” the knife up and down, moving across the carrots to cut them into a fine slice.
I’ll do a video of this if you want – just shout out in the comments below!
Which noodles to use for Chicken Chow Mein?
There are so many types of noodles, I thought it would be helpful to show you what Chow Mein noodles look like. A distinguishing characteristic of chow mein noodles is that they are kind of crinkly and they are dry to touch, not slippery and wet/oily like many other noodles, like Hokkien noodles.
Nowadays in Australia, Chow Mein noodles are sold in the major supermarkets – YAY!!! I think this is fairly recent because up until last year, I always picked up Chow Mein noodles when I dropped by an Asian store.
Here are the brands I use. The one on the left is the brand I get from Asian stores. The one on the right is the brand I get from supermarkets – Fantastic Noodles. While the colour is a little more yellow than the Asian Chow Mein noodles, the flavour and texture is almost identical. Both are fresh so you will find them in the refrigerator section.
However, having said that, this recipe can be made with any dried or fresh noodles you can find. While you can’t strictly call it Chow Mein unless it is made with Chow Mein noodles, the flavour will be fabulous still.
Chow Mein is honestly probably the most universally popular Chinese recipe in the whole world. And there are countless variations of it. Even throughout China, Chow Mein is made differently by region and even restaurant to restaurant within regions.
And similarly, while I urge you to follow the recipe with regards to the quantity of protein and vegetables I use in the recipe (otherwise you will dilute the flavour), feel free to swap out them out for whatever you have or like. The vegetables in Chow Mein in China are commonly shredded cabbage, carrot, bean sprouts and shallots/scallions so that’s what I’ve used in this recipe. But you can add your own touch, using whatever greens you prefer. Bok choy, pak choy, Chinese broccoli and other Asian greens go particularly well with this.
I’ve provided directions for two ways of making this Chicken Chow Mein. Both use the same stir fry ingredients. But then I provide directions for two ways to make the sauce. The first is making the sauce and marinade from scratch, just making enough for this recipe. The other way is using my homemade Real Chinese All Purpose Stir Fry Sauce (Charlie!) that I referred to earlier.
Charlie is perfect because he is very similar to the sauce used for Chicken Chow Mein. Having him on hand makes this a seriously fast meal!
I do hope you consider trying this! I actually posted this Chicken Chow Mein almost 2 years ago, but I decided to refresh it with new photos and more helpful photos.
Leave a comment below if you have any questions and I will be sure to respond! – Nagi x
- 200g/6oz chicken thigh fillets (or breast), cut into bite size pieces
- ½ tsp baking soda (optional - see notes)
- 1½ tbsp peanut oil (or other cooking oil)
- 200g/6oz fresh chow mein noodles (Note 5)
- 3 - 4 cups green cabbage (savoy / green), finely shredded
- 1 carrot, julienned
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 3 shallot/scallions, cut into 5cm/2" pieces
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed (see notes)
- ¼ cup (4 tbsp) water
- ¼ cup + 1 tbsp homemade Real Chinese All Purpose Stir Fry Sauce OR Chow Mein Sauce (recipe below)
- 2 tsp cornflour/cornstarch
- 1½ tbsp soy sauce (ordinary all purpose soy sauce OR light soy sauce) (Note 3)
- 1½ tbsp oyster sauce
- 1½ tbsp Chinese cooking wine (or sherry) (Note 4)
- 2 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- White pepper
- Optional - velveting the chicken (see notes): Combine chicken and baking soda in a small bowl and toss to combine. Set aside for 10 minutes to marinate, then rinse chicken well and pat dry.
- Chow Mein Sauce (if using): Mix together cornflour and soy sauce, then mix in remaining ingredients.
- Pour 1 tbsp of Chow Mein Sauce OR Real Chinese All Purpose Stir Fry Sauce over the chicken and set aside to marinate for 10 minutes.
- Prepare the noodles according to the packet instructions.
- Heat oil in wok or large fry pan over high heat.
- Add garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds until the garlic is golden brown and you can smell the garlic in the oil. Remove garlic from wok.
- Add chicken and stir fry until the skin is white but the inside is still raw - about 45 seconds to 1 minute.
- Add the cabbage, carrot, and the white pieces of shallots/scallions (i.e. from the base of the stalk). Stir fry for 1 - 1½ minutes until the cabbage is just starting to wilt and the chicken is cooked through.
- Add the noodles, Real Chinese All Purpose Stir Fry Sauce/Chow Mein Sauce and water. Stir fry for 1 minute, tossing to coat the noodles in the sauce.
- Add bean sprouts and remaining shallots/scallions. Stir through quickly then remove from heat.
- Serve immediately.
2. I make my Chow Mein by infusing the oil with garlic flavour by stir frying smashed garlic. To smash garlic, use the side of the knife or a meat mallet to flatten them so they break open, then peel the skin off (which should skip right off after smashing it). Alternatively, you could just use minced garlic.
3. This recipe requires ordinary all purpose soy sauce (i.e. not labelled "dark", "sweet" or "light" soy sauce) OR light soy sauce. I use Kikkoman.
Tamari is a suitable gluten free substitute.
4. Japanese cooking sake could also be used. Mirin is also an adequate substitute but if you use Mirin, please reduce the sugar to 1 tsp. If you really can't use alcohol, just use chicken stock/broth.
5. Chow Mein noodles are sold at Asian grocery stores and also at Woolworths in Australia (Fantastic noodles brand).
6. NUTRITION is for 2 servings which are BIG servings. I actually think this recipe is more like 3 servings - but I say 2 servings just to be safe!
Nutrition for Chicken Chow Mein per serving, assuming 2 servings (very generous portion sizes).