A great Chow Mein comes down to the sauce which is made with soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, sugar and cornstarch for thickening. Slippery noodles slick with the savoury Chow Mein Sauce is noodle heaven!
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 Thai, Pad See Ew (Thai Stir Fried Noodles), Singapore Noodles, Yakisoba (Japanese noodles) – to name just 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– 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);
- Faster to make that home delivery – 15 minutes from start to finish;
- Versatile– as all stir fries are. Switch the proteins and veg as you please;
- Charlie – Chow Mein Sauce 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.
What noodles to use for Chow Mein
The thing that distinguishes Chow Mein from other stir fried noodles are the type of noodles used. Chow Mein noodles are thin crinkly looking noodles that are lightly coated in flour.
Here’s a close up of the noodles. The supermarket version by Fantastic Noodles is slightly more yellow than it should be but it’s just as tasty.
Can’t find Chow Mein Noodles?
Use Ramen Noodles or other instant noodles – just toss the packet seasoning! Or use thin spaghetti or other thin egg noodles (check ingredients on packet, should have egg listed).
What 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 is by far the most popular, but I have no facts or figures to back that up. 😉
I like to use chicken thigh for stir fries because it’s juicier than breast and tenderloin. If I make this with chicken breast, I always tenderise it using a Chinese restaurant technique using baking soda (bi-carb). It’s super simple, see directions here: How to Velvet Chicken.
Chow Mein Sauce
Here’s what you need for the sauce. The Chinese cooking wine is the key ingredient that makes home cooking truly rival takeout – your local Chinese restaurant uses Chinese cooking wine in virtually everything!!
How to make Chow Mein
And here’s how to make it. Make sure you have everything ready to toss in because once you start cooking, you’ll be plating up in just over 5 minutes – I told you it’s fast!!
Wok NOT essential!
Totally fine to cook Chow Mein 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!
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
Watch how to make it
- 200g /6 oz chicken breast or thigh fillets , thinly sliced (Note 1 tenderise option)
- 4 cups green cabbage , finely shredded (Note 3)
- 1 1/2 tbsp peanut oil (or other cooking oil)
- 2 cloves garlic , finely chopped
- 200g /6 oz chow mein noodles (Note 2)
- 1 carrot , julienned
- 1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
- 3 green onions , cut into 5cm/2" pieces
- 1/4 cup (65 ml) water
Chow Mein Sauce:
- 2 tsp cornflour / cornstarch
- 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce , all purpose or light (Note 4)
- 1 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce (sub Hoisin)
- 1 1/2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine OR Mirin (Note 5)
- 2 tsp sugar (reduce to 1 tsp if using Mirin)
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- White pepper (sub black)
- 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.
Chicken & Noodles
- 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.
- 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.
Originally published 2014, updated over the years with improved photos, process photos, and video!
Love Chow Mein? Here’s more noodles to try!
- Pad Thai and Pad See Ew (Thai Stir Fried noodles)
- Singapore Noodles
- Char Kway Teow
- Build Your Own Chinese Noodles
- Browse the Noodle recipes collection!
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)