You are here

Chow Mein

Chow mein, also spelt as chowmein, is one of the most popular Chinese dishes, made of stir-fried noodles and available in a number of varieties. Popular all over the world, chowmein has as many variations as the regions it is now made in, including the Unites States, China itself, India, Nepal, Canada, and the Caribbean islands.


Recipes for chow mein originated in Northern China. They were taken to the United States with the immigrants from China and soon became popular all over the world. Wheat was the staple crop in North China, and became the chief ingredient of Chowmein. In the United States, Chow mein recipes became popular for their taste, ease of packing and carrying, and relatively low prices.


Made from wheat flour, eggs, and water, Chow mein noodles can be cooked with both vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian preparations. Non-vegetarian chowmein may contain chicken or meat, or even seafood. Vegetarian dishes may contain vegetables like carrots, celery, onions, cabbage, bean sprouts etc.

Chowmein is easy to cook. Basic chowmein recipes can be made by heating half a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a wok, and then adding a chicken and garlic mixture. This mixture is then removed and replaced in the wok with a bit more oil and vegetables, followed by the noodles.

The Chowmein noodles are the main ingredient of the dish and they should ideally be the flat, deep fried ones. The noodles for the fried Chow mein recipes need to be crisp on the inside, but must retain a level of softness and tenderness on the inside.

Popular Styles of Cooking

Chow mein can be cooked in two ways. They can be crispy and fried for a drier chowmein recipes. Or, they can be steamed, for a softer, moist dish. The crispy way of cooking chowmein is more popular on the East coast of the United States, and is often referred to as the “Hong Kong” style of chowmein. This chowmein can be eaten in a hamburger-type bun like a sandwich. The fried chowmein can be either lightly fried, or fried till they turn brown and very crisp. Steamed chow mein recipes are more popular on the West Coast, and constitute a separate recipe called “lo mein”.

The cooking styles of chowmein also vary as per the country. In Indian cuisine, chow mein may be cooked in a vegetarian style with the addition of “paneer” and with “hakka” noodles. The Canadian style of cooking chow mein recipes is unique. There are three main chow mein recipes. The chowmein noodles can be plain with bean sprouts. The noodles can also be made and served over a bed of deep-friend, crisp egg noodles; or, they can be cooked in a “Cantonese” style, with crisp egg noodles cooked with green peppers, bamboo shoots, shrimp, water chestnuts, peo pods etc.

Serving and Eating Chow Mein Noodles

Chowmein is an extremely versatile dish and can be served as a meal time dish or even as a mid-day snack. The dish can also be made with left-overs. The number and amount of vegetables and meat can be limited to make it a light snack. Whereas, a chow mein packed with vegetables and meat can make a very filling dish, making one feel full quickly and giving energy.

The fried noodles can also act as an appetizer snack. The chowmein can also be served as steaming, hot soup on a cold evening. It can be served with gravy or even eaten dry.

Chowmein noodles can be served in a big bowl. For garnishing, one can use sesame seeds, fresh looking and tasting herbs, bright colored cherry tomatoes, and cilantro.

Health and Nutrition facts

Since chow mein noodles are chiefly made of wheat, the dish is an excellent energy and stamina booster. The meat and vegetables added can make it an even more wholesome, nourishing, protein-rich dish.

For health and fitness conscious individuals, steamed chow mein recipes are the ideal option, since they contain little or no oil. The dish is versatile enough so that one can make it to suit his/her own health plan. Tofu can be mixed with the noodles for added health benefits.

Chowmein Noodles : Trivia

  • Chow mein was introduced to America in the nineteenth century when the dish was served in Chinatown in New York in 1880. La Choy, founded in 1922, began selling canned preparations that could be used both in chow mein as well as in chop suey.

  • Chowmein is also a popular part of West Indian, Cuban, Guyana, Tibetan, and Nepali cuisine.

  • Chinese tradition indicates that noodles stand for a long life and fine health. Noodles, including chow mein, are therefore, cooked and served long.