While a steaming bowl of white rice is the typical go-to carb for many Filipinos, our love for noodles can’t go by ignored, either! Whether it’s the sweet, saucy Pinoy spaghetti or the flavorful pancit for long life, noodles are just as important a staple at Filipino celebrations and homes. And Chinese takeout favourite chow mein is definitely high up on the list of noodles we know and love!
What is Chow Mein?
Savory, umami, and bursting with flavor, chow mein is basically one of Chinese cuisine’s favorite ways to prepare noodles. Its literal translation is “stir-fried noodles,” referring to the cooking method you use to make it. The noodles in are crispy and overwhelming with flavor. This dish makes use of chicken breast, which is one of the healthiest parts of the chicken, and one that easily absorbs the sauce’s mouthwatering taste. And the vegetables, fresh and crisp, make your dish hearty as well as healthy!
If you’ve ever been to Chinese fast food joints like Panda Express, this is one of their main carb offerings. Alongside main dishes like orange chicken or beef and broccoli, these noodles are crunchy, tasty, and oh so delightful! However, the main difference is that the chow mein of Panda Express is a fairly simplified version of these classic noodles. The only vegetables it has are cabbage and celery. This recipe holds a myriad of different veggies, for a dish that’s perfectly delicious and nutritious!
If this is starting to sound awfully familiar, you’re probably right! Many say that the Filipino equivalent of this dish is the classic pancit canton. It’s no surprise that the dishes are alike, as pancit is a dish that was introduced to us by Chinese immigrants way back when. Since then, it has truly left its mark on our cuisine, making it an enjoyable meal during fiestas, birthdays –– even funerals. No matter the occasion, you can always count on pancit to make an appearance.
What’s the Difference Between Chow Mein and Lo Mein?
Chow mein also bears a resemblance to another popular Chinese noodle dish called lo mein. You might be asking, then: what is the difference between this dish and that of lo mein?
The answer, to put it simply, is preparation. While chow mein directly translates to stir-fried noodles as we mentioned earlier, lo mein, meanwhile, means tossed noodles. Because of this difference, lo mein noodles end up softer, a little more like the traditional noodles we’re familiar with. Cooking chow mein, meanwhile, gives you a greater variety in texture once you combine those crisp noodles with its vegetables.
Lo mein is generally a saucier dish. After parboiling lo mein noodles, you tend to set them aside until the last minute, where you toss them in with the sauce you work on longer. Lo mein recipes often opt to use more sauce than chow mein because of this. This also makes sense, considering chow mein noodles are more popular for their crispiness; pouring too much sauce on them would make them slightly soggier.
However, this chow mein we’re familiar with refers more to a Westernized, fast food version of the dish. In fact, authentic Chinese chow mian dishes have softer noodles, too! If you want your noodles crispy and dry, feel free to add more oil and cook them longer on each side.
How to Make Chow Mein
The noodles we’re making today bear more of a resemblance to these authentic Chinese noodles. To stir fry anything is to cook an ingredient at high heat with very little oil until it becomes crisp and delicious. Chow mein is an easy dish to cook, as it only needs a few ingredients. In only about 30 or less minutes, you’ll have your own chow mein in no time.
The main ingredients of today’s dish are the following:
Chow Mein Noodles
Obviously, you can’t have chow mein noodles without the noodles themselves! Asian grocery stores and even some regular supermarkets have dry noodles lining their shelves. Made with wheat and egg, they honestly aren’t that hard to find; they even resemble Italian noodles! So, if for some reason you don’t have Chinese egg noodles on hand, noodles like fettuccine and linguini may also do the trick.
What’s great about chow mein, like other stir fried noodles, is that it is an adaptable recipe. You can use any sort of meat you want for this dish, like beef, pork, or even turkey! But chicken –– and the chicken breast, especially –– is one of the healthiest options for protein in your chow mein. If you’re planning to go vegetarian on this dish, you can switch out your chicken for tofu or remove the option entirely. The addition of the chicken breast makes for a greater variety of texture and flavor that will make your dish even more unforgettable!
Leafy and green, the humble cabbage is one of the most versatile and dynamic vegetables out there. Half a cup of cooked cabbage (only a quarter of what we’re using in this chow mein recipe) already gives you a third of the vitamin C amount you need in a day! It’s also a great source of Vitamin A, potassium, and fiber, which can keep your body going.
The crunchy carrot gives an even deeper layer of texture to your chicken chow mein! Carrot is a vegetable that’s great at absorbing many different flavors –– perfect for a dish like the one we’re making now. Its bright color also makes your chow mein more appealing to the eye. One fact carrot is famous for is that it is an incredibly nutritious and helpful superfood, known for improving eyesight and your immune system.
Sprouts are another fantastic superfood you can add to any dish! Chow mein welcomes this crunchy vegetable with open arms, as well as its many vitamins and minerals. Its high enzyme content makes it a fantastic source of protein and vitamins A and C. Bean sprouts also aid in digestive wellness, making sure your stomach is in tip-top condition so you can enjoy these fantastic meals.
You may know scallions by another name: green onion. It’s a common misconception to treat these two ingredients as different, but their appearance and taste are actually one and the same! Scallions are a popular guest in many Chinese dishes, not just chow mein; their taste isn’t as overpowering as regular onions, and as such seek to only highlight other dishes’ already spectacular flavors. The green pop of color you get from garnishing these over your dish is always a welcome sight!
Of course, it seems almost criminal not to use a staple like garlic in our humble chow mein. Its nutty, creamy, and sometimes spicy flavor add to the complex palate, and makes the noodles even more delicious! While this recipe only calls for 3 cloves, feel free to add more if, like me, you can’t get enough of this seasoning.
All of these ingredients come together to make a chow mein that is delicious, aromatic, and simply fantastic. Are you convinced yet? Let’s dive in and find out how to make this delicious Chinese favorite.
Chicken Chow Mein Recipe
Before cooking your chow mein, let’s first prepare all your ingredients.
- Slice your chicken breast into thin pieces
- Shred 2 cups of cabbage
- Julienne 1 carrot
- Mince 3 cloves of garlic
- Chop 3 stalks of scallions
To start making your chow mein, cook your noodles according to package instructions for optimal results. While that’s cooking, it’s best to start on your chow mein sauce. For this, you’ll need cornstarch, soy sauce, oyster sauce, Shaoxing cooking wine, sugar, and sesame oil. Stir all of these (according to the measurements given) until you’ve incorporated them well, then set your sauce aside.
If your noodles are still cooking, continue on to the next step by taking a pan and pouring in 3 tablespoons of cooking oil. Sauté the garlic you minced until it begins to brown, then add in your chicken breast. Stir fry your chicken until this, too, begins to brown slightly.
Once it has, add in your scallions, carrots, and cabbage pieces, and stir fry for two minutes more. By this time, your chow mein noodles should be ready! Drain them and add to the pan, continuing to incorporate your ingredients well. Take the sauce you set aside prior and pour it in, adding half a cup of water (or more if needed). Toss and stir.
Add your 1 ½ cups of bean sprouts and keep stir frying for a minute longer. Season with white ground pepper to taste. Once you’ve mixed your chow mein well, turn your heat off the stove and transfer your noodles to a serving bowl. Voila –– your chow mein is ready!
Share and enjoy these noodles with the rest of your family. Let us know what you think of this awesome dish!
Chicken Chow Mein
- 8 ounces chow mein noodles
- 8 oz chicken breast sliced into thin pieces
- 2 cups cabbage shredded
- 1 piece carrot Julienne
- 1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
- 3 stalks scallions sliced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ½ cup water
- 3 tablespoons cooking oil
- Ground white pepper to taste
- 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 3 tablespoons Shaoxing cooking wine
- 1 teaspoon granulated white sugar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- Prepare noodles based on package instructions.
- Make the sauce by combining all sauce ingredients. Stir until well blended. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a pan. Sauté garlic until it starts to brown. Add chicken. Stir-fry until the color turns light brown.
- Add scallion, carrot, and cabbage. Continue to stir fry for 2 minutes.
- Put the noodles into the pan. Stir fry until all ingredients are well distributed.
- Pour sauce into the pan and add water. Toss.
- Add bean sprouts. Continue to stir-fry for 1 minute.
- Season with ground white pepper.
- Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve. Share and enjoy!