These two Asian-inspired noodles are two of the most confused dishes because of their salient similarities and differences. It is like the ravioli and tortellini debate; both are noodles, but they are cooked and prepared differently.
So to settle the chow mein and lo mein mix-up once and for all, this post will answer all the FAQs surrounding these two noodle dishes.
What is lo mein?
So first, what is lo mein? It is a Cantonese dish and the name lo mein refers to tossed or mixed noodles. This dish requires the noodles to be cooked first. After it is fully cooked, the meat and vegetables are mixed in the wok.
It is then poured with Asian light sauce composed of ginger, garlic, and soy sauce/oyster sauce. Unlike chao mein, lo mein is a saucy noodle dish.
What is chow mein?
Now let us focus on chow mein. In Chinese, chao mein is actually chao mian and it refers to stir-fried noodles. It is prepared by parboiling the noodles in hot water and then tossing it in the wok to be stir-fried along with veggies, meat, or shrimp. It is a dry noodle dish and does not come with sauce.
Difference Between Chow Mein and Lo Mein
We have scored the two main differences of these two noodles: chow mein is stir-fried and cooked without sauce while lo mein has the noodles fully cooked first and then tossed with the mix of veggies, meat, and sauce. But the differences do not stop there and here is a table for your reference:
|Chow mein||Lo mein|
|Crispy wheat flour and egg noodles||Soft wheat flour and egg noodles|
|Flat or round||Flat shaped only|
|Traditionally cooked without sauce||Doused with dark, thick sauce|
|Cooked with a minimal amount of vegetables and meat||Cooked with a generous amount of stir-fried vegetables and meat|
|Has higher fat content; oily||Has lower fat content; does not contain oil|
Indeed, the main difference between these two noodle dishes would be the ways they are prepared, and the cooking methods used for them. They also differ in nutritional content but this one is discussed further in another section.
Similarities between Chow Mein and Lo Mein
Despite their stark differences, chow mein and lo mein also share similarities being two Chinese noodles. First, they are both made with wheat flour and eggs.
Second, they are both mixed with vegetables, meats, and shrimp and of vegetables such as carrots, bean sprouts, and broccoli. Third, both can be doused with soy sauce based sauce (but chow mein can go without sauce).
These two noodles have significant similarities. This is the reason why we understand the confusion especially that these two does not even have a stark difference when it comes to taste.
How to cook chow mein
As have been mentioned, cooking chow mein starts with parboiling the noodles or soaking it in water for 3mins until it softens. After that, the noodles are stir-fried in the wok and then vegetables such as bell pepper, celery, or bean sprouts are added. The meat or protein is added next on the stir-fry. Everything is cooked together in the wok before it is served.
Chow mein does not come with sauce. But if you want to add a saucy layer to it, you can make a light sauce composed of broth, sesame oil, sugar, a bit of oyster sauce and soy sauce. For chow mein, the star of the dish is the chewy noodles so the other ingredients like the veggies and the meat should not be that many.
How to cook lo mein
On the other hand, lo mein includes fully cooking the noodles until it becomes ‘al dente’. While boiling the noodles, the vegetables and meat or fish are stir-fried.
When the noodles become thick and soft, they are now tossed in the wok and mixed with the stir-fried ingredients. The whole thing is then doused with a dark, thick sauce composed of soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, and sesame oil.
Is chow mein or lo mein healthier?
This question is quite tricky given the type of noodles these two dishes have and the way they are prepared as well as the ingredients that go with each noodle dish. Since chow mein is dried and fried, it is higher in fat compared to lo mein but not on a significant level. Chow mein is at 2.4g in fat for every 100g portion while lo mein is at 1.7g fat only.
But in terms of calorie content, lo mein contains 121 calories while chow mein only has 43 calories. Lo mein is also higher in sugar compared to chow mein. So all things considered, and given that these three nutrition content are most of the time the basis for what is ‘healthier’, we can say that chow mein is relatively healthier than lo mein.
Best chow mein recipes
If you are thinking of making some chow mein soon, you have to know that there are a lot of recipes that you can make it with. Here are some of the best chow mein recipes that you can cook:
- Chicken chow mein
- Turkey chow mein
- Shrimp chow mein
- Pork chow mein
- Tofu and cashew chow mein (vegan meal)
- Panda Express Chow Mein (Copycat)
Best lo mein recipes
If it is lo mein that you are craving for, here are five of the best lo mein recipes that you should be recreating now:
Chow mein and lo mein are two hearty Chinese noodles. They are two perfect comfort foods and individually, they are filling meals. They have a whole load of carbs, a good portion of fiber from the vegetables and protein from the meat and shrimps.
Aside from the cooking method and how they are prepared as well as the thickness and size of the noodles used, they do not have other significant differences.
- 6oz chow mein noodles
- 120z flank steak
For the marinade
- 1tbsp cornstarch
- A pinch of salt
- 1 ½ tbsp Shaoxing wine
For the sauce
- ¼ cup chicken stock
- 2tbsp oyster sauce
- 2tbsp Shaoxing wine
- 2tbsp soy sauce
- 1tsp cornstarch
- 1tsp black pepper
- 2tbsp sugar
For the stir-fry
- 4tbsps vegetable oil
- ½ small sized onion (chopped)
- 1 medium sized bell pepper (cut into strips)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 green onions
- 1tbsp minced vinegar
- Check the boiling instructions in the packet and do as written or until al dente. Strain the noodles, rinse it with water and set aside.
- Cut the flank steak in small chunks. In a mixing bowl, whisk in all the ingredients for the marinade. Stir the marinade well and submerge the meat chunks in it. Let it tenderize for at least 10mins.
- In a separate mixing bowl, mix all the liquid ingredients for the sauce. Stir and then add the vegetable ingredients and spices.
- Next, work on the meat. Heat the wok or non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. Arrange the beef chunks and cook each side for 45 secs to one minute each side. Make sure that each side is slightly charred. Transfer the beef chunks in a plate and set aside.
- Now add 2tbsps of oil and then toss in the onion and pepper. Stir-fry the veggies for a minute. After that, add the green onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook for another minute.
- So now, add the noodles in the wok. Toss in the beef, the veggies, and the sauce at once. Stir occasionally just to make sure that everything is coated with the sauce.
- Garnish with green onions or scallions. Serve warm.
Always watch out for the time. The time intervals should be strictly followed.
Nutrition InformationServing Size 1
Amount Per ServingCalories 385Total Fat 10.9gSaturated Fat 4.2gCholesterol 79mgSodium 922mgCarbohydrates 34.3gFiber 3.1gSugar 9.9gProtein 35.9g