Have you ever wondered what is the difference between Lo Mein and Chow Mein? Like most people, I always thought it was the type of noodle. One is soft, as in Lo Mein, the other crisp, as in Chow Mein. The basic concept is correct. But there’s more.
Mein is Chinese for noodles. Lo Mein is Cantonese for “stirred” or “tossed” noodles. The soft noodles are stirred or tossed with a thin sauce. American style Lo Mein is usually stir-fried with sauce. On the other hand, Chow Mein means “fried noodles”. That does not necessarily mean fried-crisp. Some Chow Mein dishes use steamed Chow Mein, for a softer noodles, while others are prepared in the Hong-Kong style, fried crisp. Like most ethnic cuisines, what is served in China differs from what is served outside China. This is especially true in Chinese American restaurants that are located in areas of the country without a significant Asian population. Recipes are modified to cater to the taste preferences of the local dominate population. Even the founder of the food manufacturer Chunk King admits that Italian Spices are used in their canned Chow Mein to make it more acceptable to American tastes.
If you really want to taste authentic Chinese foods and can’t travel to China, I would suggest you give San Francisco a try. Stop in during the week, when the restaurants aren’t catering to the tourists. Almost no English is spoken, and the foods are vastly different from those found on a Saturday afternoon.
That said, I will confess my Lo Mein is more American than Chinese.
Lo Mein Noodles
8 oz Spaghetti Noodles
2 large Carrots, cut into large matchsticks
3 stalks Celery, sliced
4 Brown Mushrooms, sliced
1/2 Yellow Onion, thinly sliced
1 Red Bell Pepper, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons Soy Sauce
2 tablespoons Teriyaki Sauce
2 tablespoons Honey
1/4 teaspoon Ground Ginger
2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 Green Onions, sliced
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti in the boiling water, stirring occasionally until cooked through but firm to the bite, about 12 minutes; drain. Rinse spaghetti with cold water to cool; sit aside to drain.
While the noodles cook, prepare the vegetables. Peel and slice the carrots into large matchsticks. Set aside. Slice the celery and mushrooms. Set aside. Peel the onion, cut in half and then thinly slice half of the onion. Break apart and set aside. Core the bell pepper, discard stem and seeds. Slice the bell pepper into thin strips. Set aside.
To prepare the sauce, whisk soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, honey, and ground ginger together in a bowl.
Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Cook carrots, red pepper strips and yellow onion until slightly tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the mushrooms and celery, continue to cook for about 5 more minutes. Add spaghetti and sauce mixture. Tossing to mix, and simmer until the noodles and sauce are hot, about 5 minutes more.
Transfer to a large serving bowl. Slice the green onions, garnish the noodles, toss and serve.