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Chow Mein vs Lo Mein: 4 Differences, 4 Recipes, and Fun Facts

Chow Mein and Lo Mein are two beloved noodle dishes you will indeed find on every Chinese restaurant's menu across America. What is the difference between Chow Mein and Lo Mein? How to make Chinese Noodle dishes at home? Get all the answers in our article.
Chow Mein vs Lo Mein: 4 Differences, 4 Recipes, and Fun Facts
Chow Mein vs Lo Mein: 4 Differences, 4 Recipes, and Fun Facts
Anna at SideChef
Content Specialist. Bitten by curiosity bug. Obsessed with words. Fuelled by coffee. Powered by Google. Love cheese, chocolate, and cherries. Don’t judge your taco by its price.
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Anna at SideChef
Content Specialist. Bitten by curiosity bug. Obsessed with words. Fuelled by coffee. Powered by Google. Love cheese, chocolate, and cherries. Don’t judge your taco by its price.

What Is the Difference Between Chow and Lo Mein?

If we simply translate the words Chow (炒 - 'chao' in Mandarin Chinese) and Lo (捞 - 'lao' in Mandarin Chinese), we will understand how these two noodle dishes are different.

Chow 炒 means "to fry"; 'chow mein' simply means fried noodles, and it is a Cantonese pronunciation of a typical Chinese dish, also known as 'chao mian' 炒面in other regions.

Lo 捞 means "to scoop out" or "to dredge"; it is also adapted from Cantonese, and in other regions, lo mein is more known as 'ban mian' 拌面.

It turns out the main difference between chow mein and lo mein is the cooking method - one is stir-fried together with some vegetables, meat, or seafood, and the other one is parboiled and tossed with the rest of the ingredients afterward.

Because of that, classic Chinatown favorite chow mein noodles are slightly crispy and chewy, while the lo mein noodle dishes are soft, silky, and generously covered in a tangy sauce.

Fun Fact:

Both chow mein and lo mein are very general dishes in Chinese cuisine. In China, saying "I'd like Chow Mein, please" is like saying "I'd like pasta" in Italy - you have to be more specific than that. Many Chinese restaurants serve nothing but chow and lo mein noodles, and they have dozens of items on their menus. There are countless combinations of vegetables, chicken, beef, seafood, eggs simply placed in front of 'chow mein' or 'lo mein' to specify the type of noodle dish you are ordering.

Chow Mein Noodles Characteristics:

Cooking Method: parboiled, then stir-fried together with the other ingredients.

Texture: Crispy and slightly chewy.

Sauce: Little to no sauce.

Nutrition: Fewer calories and sodium from sauce compared to lo mein, but more calories from oil.

Lo Mein Noodles Characteristics:

Cooking Method: fresh egg noodles boiled and then tossed together with the other ingredients.

Texture: smooth, soft, and chewy.

Sauce: generously covered with a lo mein sauce. The sauce usually contains soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, garlic, sugar, and even ketchup.

Nutrition: There are fewer calories from oil as the noodles are boiled but more calories and sodium from the sauce.

Hong Kong Style Chow Mein (aka Cantonese)

In the Southern Chinese province of Guangdong (formerly known as Canton) and in neighboring Hong Kong, crispy fried chow mein noodles in soy sauce are a popular snack and one of the favorite dishes for breakfast. Stir-fried noodles with chicken, shrimp, bean sprouts, and other vegetables are also very popular.

Basic Hong Kong Style Soy Sauce Chow Mein Recipe:

This is the basic quick and easy chow mein recipe you can make in 15 minutes. Feel free to add any extra ingredients you like.

Ingredients for Chow Mein Sauce:

Sesame Oil (1 tsp)

Dark Soy Sauce (1 Tbsp)

Fish Sauce (1 tsp)

Oyster Sauce (1 tsp)

Shaoxing Cooking Wine (splash)

Sugar, Salt, and Pepper (pinch)

The fresh egg noodles are first fried to crispiness and then stir-fried again with the sauce. You can get a step by step Hong Kong-style chow mein recipe as well as a shoppable recipe grocery list for it below:

Check out this recipe for crispy Cantonese-style beef chow mein too:

Fun Fact:

American Chinese versions of chow mein and lo mein are different for East and West Coast. Lo mein is not used very often on the West coast. So if you'd like tossed noodles, lo mein style, just order chow mein. If you want them fried crispy - order Hong Kong-style chow mein.

Panda Express Chow Mein Recipe to Make at Home:

Chinese takeout is a weekend staple for many Americans. Why not skip on ordering and make some delicious Chinese dishes yourself? Starting with this beloved classic:

Lo Mein Style Noodles With Oyster Sauce:

When you're craving one of the extra saucy lo mein dishes, try this quick and easy stir fry.

If you’re craving more Asian-inspired flavors, check out this Chinese Fusion Dinners Meal Plan for inspiration.

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