A great Chow Mein comes down to the sauce – it takes more than just soy sauce and sugar! Jam packed with a surprising amount of hidden vegetables, customise this Chicken Chow Mein recipe using your protein of choice. Quick and easy!
I want to say that Chow Mein is my favourite noodle-child but I’m worried that I’ve said that in another recipe (or two… or three…🙈). Because there is, after all, some heavy hitting noodle competition in this big wide world. Pad See Ew (Thai Stir Fried Noodles), Singapore Noodles, Yakisoba (Japanese noodles), Pad Thai – just to name a few.
But Chow Mein is right up there and it’s not just because it’s noodle-slurpingly delicious, but also because of the following:
- Tons of hidden veggies– 4 cups of cabbage, carrot and bean sprouts, all in “noodle shapes” so they just meld right in there with the noodles so you have no idea how much you’re actually consuming (it’s like feeding a child);
- Cabbage lasts for ages, I always have it in stock and it’s the key vegetable in Chow Mein;
- Quick ‘n easy – it’s no exaggeration when I say this is faster than home delivery;
- Versatile– as all stir fries are. Switch the proteins and veg as you please;
- Charlie– Chow Mein can be made from scratch, or using Charlie, my all purpose Stir Fry Sauce that I always have on hand. Yes, I named him because I love him so much.
Chow Mein is Chow Mein instead of being just another generic stir fried noodles because it’s made with Chow Mein noodles. They are thin crinkly looking noodles that are lightly coated in flour.
Here’s an up close and personal of Chow Mein noodles. The supermarket version by Fantastic Noodles is slightly more yellow than it should be but it’s just as tasty.
OTHER STUFF THAT GOES IN CHOW MEIN
Other than noodles, Chow Mein almost always has cabbage, bean sprouts and carrot, then your choice of protein. I’m pretty sure Chicken Chow Mein is by far the most popular, but I have no facts or figures to back that up. 😉
The Sauce is pretty simple: soy sauce, Oyster Sauce, Chinese cooking wine aka Shaosing / Shaoxing wine, sesame oil, sugar, pepper and cornflour / cornstarch. The cooking wine is a key ingredient that makes home cooking truly rival takeout – your local Chinese restaurant uses Chinese cooking wine in virtually everything!!
CHOW MEIN vs LO MEIN
We could get into technicalities here – authentic roots and Chinese translation – but I’m just going to cut to the chase: Chow Mein as we know it outside of China is made with thin crinkly type noodles which are lightly coated in flour, whereas Lo Mein are wider noodles that are slippery. Both are yellow because they’re egg noodles.
Both are delicious. They just have different textures. [END!]
CRISPY VS NON CRISPY CHOW MEIN
Here in Australia, we have both crispy and non crispy Chow Mein noodle dishes. Crispy Chow Mein is made by deep frying chow mein noodles until crispy, then it’s served smothered with a saucy Chop Suey stir fry . I shared a non deep fried version of Crispy Chow Mein years ago – I really should update this recipe and add a video!
This recipe is the “other” Chow Mein, the non crispy version where the noodles are tossed in a sauce.
The fact of the matter is, no matter what protein you use, what vegetables and even what noodles, you’re going to end up with a bowl of slurp-worthy noodles as long as you use the Sauce recipe plus the same quantity of noodles + other stuff (veg, protein etc) so the flavour isn’t diluted.
So don’t get too hung up on the exact noodle type! Concentrate on the sauce. The sauce, the sauce!! – Nagi x
PS Totally fine to make this in a skillet instead of a wok. Just be sure to use a big one – so your noodles don’t go flying as you enthusiastically toss.
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
- 200 g /6oz chicken thigh fillets , cut into bite size pieces (Note 1 tenderise option)
- 1 1/2 tbsp peanut oil (or other cooking oil)
- 200 g /6 oz fresh chow mein noodles (Note 2)
- 3 - 4 cups green cabbage or Chinese cabbage , finely shredded (Note 3)
- 1 carrot, julienned
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 3 shallot/scallions/green onions , cut into 5cm/2" pieces
- 2 cloves garlic , finely chopped
- 1/4 cup / 65 ml water
- 2 tsp cornflour / cornstarch
- 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce , all purpose or light (Note 4)
- 1 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine (Note 5)
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- White pepper
Mix together cornflour and soy sauce, then mix in remaining ingredients.
Alternative: Use 1/3 cup Chinese All Purpose Stir Fry Sauce, if you have some in stock.
Marinate Chicken: Pour 1 tbsp of Sauce over the chicken, mix to coat, set aside to marinate for 10 minutes.
Noodles: Prepare the noodles according to the packet instructions (my pack says soak in boiled water for 1 minute), then drain.
Heat oil in wok or large fry pan over high heat.
Add garlic and stir fry for 10 seconds or until it starts to turn golden - don't let it burn!
Add chicken and stir fry until the surface gets a tinge of browning but inside is still raw - about 1 minute.
Add the cabbage, carrot, and the white pieces of shallots (i.e. from the base of the stalk). Stir fry for 1 1/2 minutes until the cabbage is mostly wilted.
Add the noodles, Sauce and water. Stir fry for 1 minute, tossing constantly.
Add bean sprouts and remaining shallots/scallions. Toss through for 30 seconds or until the bean sprouts just start to wilt.
Remove from heat and serve immediately.
1. Protein: Sub with sliced pork, beef or turkey, whole prawns/shrimp or even ground meat (still marinate, crumble into chunks and cook like that).
TENDERISING OPTION: Chinese restaurants like to tenderise / "velvet" proteins so they are extra soft. I do not tenderise chicken thigh because it's juicy and tender enough, however, I almost always do for chicken breast. Here's how:
Cut chicken, coat with 1/2 tsp baking soda (NOT baking powder). Set aside 20 minutes, then place in colander and rinse well under running water. Dab with paper towel to remove excess water (doesn't have to be 100% dry). Chicken is now tenderised - proceed with recipe.
Can also tenderise beef - see Note 4 in this Beef & Broccoli recipe for directions. Haven't tested extensively with pork yet.
2. Chow Mein noodles are sold at Asian grocery stores and also at Woolworths in Australia (Fantastic noodles brand, fridge section). See in post for photos and description.
3. Cabbage - I use any type of green cabbage, Chinese cabbage or savoy etc. I even use purple cabbage! Once cooked, you can barely tell the difference in flavour / texture.
4. Soy Sauce - This recipe requires ordinary all purpose soy sauce OR light soy sauce. All purpose soy sauces just say "soy sauce" on the label, Light Soy Sauce is labelled as such. I use Kikkoman. Do not use dark or sweet soy sauce. Tamari is a suitable gluten free substitute.
5. Chinese cooking wine - aka Shaosing / Shaoxing wine. Essential for Chinese cooking, it's the key to making home cooking truly taste like restaurants. Now sold at supermarkets in Australia - Asian aisle!
Substitutes:Japanese cooking sake, Mirin (reduce the sugar to 1 tsp) or dry sherry. If you really can't use alcohol, use chicken stock/broth in the sauce instead of the Chinese cooking wine AND replace the water with chicken broth.
6. GENERAL TIPS:
- Garlic - don't use mincer/garlic press or jarred garlic, they burn too quickly. Finely chop it.
- Skillet is fine, just use a big one so the noodles don't go flying when you toss.
7. 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!
Originally published 2014 when I barely knew how to hold a camera. Updated July 2016 with better photos and an early attempt at making videos. Refreshed August 2018 with more new photos and a brand new video!
LIFE OF DOZER
Throw stick, dashes after it, plonks down and eats it.
Someone needs to teach this Golden Retriever how to retrieve. (I failed)