Chinese chow mein noodles tossed in an authentic savory sauce. The noodles are stir-fried with cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, green onions, ginger and garlic for a flavorful vegetarian dish. A recipe ready in less than 30 minutes or less!
Chow mein noodles are incredibly popular at Chinese restaurants and a favorite of mine when grabbing takeout on busy weeknights. I’ve also had my fair share of growing up in the Bay Area not far from Chinatown, where you can order either wet with some gravy, or crispy fried noodles served Hong Kong Style.
Noodles are especially popular to serve during celebrations like Chinese New Year. The seemingly endless strand of pasta is considered a lucky food that is symbolic of happiness and longevity. So eat up! This chow mein recipe adds crisp cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, and green onions to the stir-fried noodles for a vegetarian version.
Once you’ve gathered and prepared all of your ingredients, it only takes 10 minutes to cook from wok to plate.
Chow Mein vs. Lo Mein
Here is where things get a little confusing, especially if you’re trying to decide between the two at Chinese restaurants. Over the centuries classic chow mein has evolved by region, using different types of noodles.
The traditional difference is that chow mein is a crispy fried noodle covered or tossed in sauce, while lo mein is a soft noodle lightly coated in sauce. What I’ve typically experienced is that lo mein noodles are thicker in size with more chew, and the chow mein noodles are thinner and can have a more wavy shape. Either way, it’s delicious.
The great thing about this Chinese dish is that you can choose whichever noodle type you prefer. If you’re near an Asian market, you’ll have more options for fresh egg noodles in the refrigerated section or dried egg noodles. The packages may say chow mein or lo mein, otherwise, yakisoba and ramen are acceptable substitutions. I was only able to find dried chow mein noodles at the major grocery store, so I used that for this recipe.
If your market is limited on options, you can use thin or thick spaghetti noodles, depending on your preference. You can’t go wrong so don’t let the type of noodle stop you.
When using dried Chinese egg noodles, boil them until just tender. You want some chew so that it holds its shape when stir-frying the noodles. Undercook them slightly, about 1 minute fewer per package instructions, taste and test the texture and continue cooking if needed. Make sure to immediately drain the noodles in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
What if you’re using fresh noodles? If they are not packed tightly together, you can add them directly to the wok. If they are a little stuck together, soak them in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes until just loosened. Don’t soak too long or the noodles will become mushy. Drain well and add to the wok, it’s easy!
Are you ready to rock the wok? It’s my favorite cooking tool to bring together ingredient components all in one pan. This chow mein dish cooks very fast. The aromatics like ginger and garlic are briefly fried in the hot oil to instantly release the fragrant smell. The cabbage and carrots go in next for a quick saute, and then the noodles and sauce.
The stir-fry sauce is what makes this meal taste amazing. Just three ingredients make the flavors pop- oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Together the umami notes with a hint of sweetness make you grab another bite until the bowl of noodles has disappeared.
If you’re looking for a speedy side dish that’s better than takeout, then you’re going to love this chow mein recipe. You can even add a protein like shrimp, tofu, or make my personal favorite chicken chow mein. You won’t believe how easy it is to make chow mein at home in your kitchen!
More Chinese recipes
Why is cornstarch added to the sauce?
Cornstarch is a thickening agent widely used in Chinese cuisine to add body and shine to sauces. A small amount of cornstarch is dispersed into the sauce mixture to help it adhere better to the noodles, instead of runoff. When heated in the pan, the starch swells and turns the sauce into a light gravy consistency.
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- 8 cups water
- 6 ounces dried chow mein noodles
- 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ¼ cup unsalted vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon minced ginger
- 1 cup green cabbage, ¼-inch thick slices
- ½ cup carrots, shredded
- ½ cup bean sprouts
- ¼ cup green onions, 1 ½-inch long pieces
- In a large pot bring 8 cups of water to a boil.
- Add dried noodles and cook according to manufacturers directions until tender with some chew or al dente.
- Drain noodles into a colander and rinse with cold water to stop cooking process. Drain well and set aside.
- In a small bowl whisk together oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, vegetable broth, and cornstarch for chow mein sauce. Set aside.
- Heat a large wok or saute pan over medium-high heat. Once hot add the vegetable oil.
- Once the oil is hot and just begins to smoke, add in garlic and ginger. Stir-fry for 20 seconds being careful not to burn the aromatics.
- Add the cabbage and carrots, stir-fry until just tender, 2 minutes.
- Add the noodles and chow mein sauce. Toss and stir to combine, cook until sauce thickens and coats noodles, 1 minute.
- Add bean sprouts and green onions, stir-fry until just tender, 1 minute.
- Other noodles can be used like yakisoba, ramen, lo mein and thin spaghetti.
- If using fresh noodles skip boiling step and add directly to wok in step 8.
- Fresh noodles can be added directly to wok as directed. If they don't easily come apart in the pan you can soak them in cold water for 5 minutes and then drain before adding.
- Coconut aminos or tamari can be substituted for soy sauce.
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