Chow mein (Chinese stir-fry noodles)

炒面, Chăomiàn, chaomin or, in English, chow mein is Cantonese for fried- or stir-fried noodles introduced to the United States by Guangdong immigrants come for the 1849 California gold rush.

A bit à la Panda Express, here's how to do it and, because you're in charge, do it better. Yakisoba/Ramen-style noodles are inexpensive and easily found in most grocery stores, but there are certainly many times at Asian grocers. The noodles to use are made from wheat and contain gluten, but it's possible to exchange rice noodles though this varies the dish's taste considerably (though not negatively).

Since this is usually a side dish and there is meat in many other places, I never use chicken or any other meat in this dish, but skip it. This makes the dish reliably vegetarian except for the oyster/Hoisin sauce. Good luck with that. If you leave that out, you lose a lot of the flavor component of the dish.


This is enough for 3-4 persons. The recipe scales reasonably well.


Sauce ingredients

2 tsp cornstarch
1½ tbsp soy sauce, all purpose or light
1½ tbsp oyster sauce (or Hoisin)
1½ tbsp Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing) or Mirin
2 tsp sugar (reduce to 1 tsp if using Mirin)
½ tsp sesame oil
white pepper (or black)

Mix together cornflour and soy sauce, then mix in remaining ingredients.

Stir-fry ingredients

6 oz chicken breast or thigh fillets, thinly sliced (optional)
1½ tbsp oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
small onion, sliced into crescent slivers
4 cups green cabbage, finely shredded
6 oz chow mein noodles (or rice if need gluten-free)
1 carrot, julienned
1½ cups bean sprouts
3 scallions, cut however you want to see them
¼ cup water


1. Marinate chicken by pouring 1 tbsp over chicken, mix to coat, set aside 10 minutes. (Or, skip this step.)

2. Prepare noodles according to their package instructions. Don't use packet spices if any come with it because you're providing your own aromates.

3. Heat just a bit of oil in wok over high.

This must go real fast:

4. Add chicken and fry until barely beginning to brown. (Or, skip this step.)

5. Add onion and fry for 1 minute, then garlic for 10 seconds (tops—do not burn either!).

6. Add cabbage and toss until shows signs of cooking, but is still fresh on inside.

7. Add carrots, shallots and water. Stir for 1 minute tossing constantly.

8. Add bean sprouts and scallions. Toss for 30 seconds or until just wilting.

9. Add noodles and sauce, then toss the whole dish for 30 seconds. Serve immediately.