What is Chow Mein?

Cyd Converse

What is chow mein, anyway? We’ll give you the delicious details!

Have you ever stared at a Chinese takeout menu, trying to figure out what everything means?

Maybe, you stick to your usual choices, because you’re not sure about the rest. For instance, what is chow mein?

You’ve probably heard the term many times. You may even have a vague sense of what it includes but can’t state with confidence how it differs from other dishes.

No worries. We’ve got you covered.

Chow Mein Noodles with Chicken Photo

What is Chow Mein?

Chow mein is a stir fry made with noodles. Chow, or “chao” in Chinese, means stir fry. Mein, or “mian,” means noodles.

Chow mein noodles are made with wheat flour and eggs. The noodles can be flat or rounded. Even ramen noodles can be used.

To make chow mein, the noodles are first parboiled, then stir fried with chicken, beef or shrimp, plus vegetables and soy sauce. The dish usually includes celery, onions, carrots, bean sprouts and cabbage.

There are different styles of chow mein in the United States and around the world. Sometimes, chow mein features crispy noodles, which is a Hong Kong tradition.

Chow Mein Noodles with Chicken Picture

Difference Between Lo Mein and Chow Mein

Lo mein uses a different cooking method than chow mein. Lo mein involves boiling noodles until they’re al dente, instead of stir frying them.

The boiled noodles are tossed with stir-fried vegetables, plus chicken, beef, pork, shrimp or tofu. “Lo mein” means mixed noodles.

Also, lo mein is saucier than chow mein. For more details, check out the Difference Between Lo Mein and Chow Mein.

Chow Mein Noodles with Chicken Image

Chow Mein vs. Chop Suey

Chop suey is a stir fry usually made with rice instead of noodles. Its sauce is thicker than the sauce used for chow mein, due to the addition of corn starch. Chop suey dishes are made with leftover rice, meat or shrimp.

Chow Mein Noodles with Chicken Pic

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Cyd is a native of Upstate New York, born to a family of women who love to cook and host parties. She shares her love of all things food, home and entertaining on her blog, The Sweetest Occasion and on Instagram.

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