Chow Mein vs Lo Mein Noodles

close up Pork Chow Mein in a white plate with chopsticks on top - Chow Mein vs Lo Mein

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On a Friday night, with nothing at home to eat, everyone will invariably do the same thing – go to their favorite local Chinese takeout. It is a classic as old as time, and one that wouldn’t be complete without a helping of some kind of noodle dish.

But which noodle dish are you supposed to pick? There seem to an almost endless different varieties of noodle dishes in Chinese cuisine, like Salt and Pepper Chicken, but by far, the most popular is Lo Mein and Chow Mein noodles.

Most of the time, people think of both of them as being pretty interchangeable, but they are actually incredibly different.

So what are the differences between Chow Mein vs Lo Mein and which is better?

Beef and Vegetable Lo Mein in a black noodle bowl, pick up noodles using chopsticks
Beef and Vegetable Lo Mein

What Are Lo Mein Noodles

First of all, the differences between both Chow Mein vs Lo Mein primarily lie in the noodles. While they are both Chinese dishes containing those all too delicious noodles, they actually include completely different noodles.

Well, mostly different. Both noodles are made from regular wheat flour and with added egg, making tasty Chinese egg noodles. However, Lo Mein is best made using fresh noodles. This means using only the freshest noodles possible, either bought freshly made from a store or made at home.

How to Cook Lo Mein Noodles

  • When you are cooking using fresh noodles, you need to modify your cooking time, as it is so fresh and clean that it only needs about two or three minutes in hot water to become cooked.
  • Remember, it is just like making pasta – they just need to be cooked until they are the perfect texture, not too soft and not too thick. Generally speaking, most people prefer their noodles’ al dente,’ which means just a teeny bit of thickness to the bite, but still soft enough that it falls apart easily.
  • The main benefit of Lo Mein noodles is that the soft, perfectly cooked noodles absorb plenty of the dishes’ sauce, making it a great mix of sauciness and noodles.

 

Pork Chow Mein in a white plate with chopsticks on top - Chow Mein vs Lo Mein
Pork Chow Mein

What Are Chow Mein Noodles

For making Chow Mein, you typically use dried noodles. One reason for this is because of the fact that Chinese restaurants across the world aren’t easily able to make fresh noodles in house, so it makes sense to use dried noodles that can be easily kept on hand.

Another reason is that a lot of the flavor in Chow Mein is in frying the noodles in one solid block, giving lots of intense umami and Maillard reaction flavor.

How to Cook Chow Mein Noodles

  • When you cook up some Chow Mein noodles, make sure you cook them a bit longer than fresh noodles. Taking about five or six minutes, cook them over a rolling boil until they are cooked just to your liking.
  • Chow Mein is the best dish if you are looking for plenty of crunchiness and more of a noodle-forward dish, in comparison to Lo Mein.

 

close up of chow mein noodles on white plate - Chow Mein vs Lo Mein

Which Dish Is Better?

Ultimately, the decision of which dish is best is up to you. Some people prefer the chewy and saucy texture of Lo Mein, whereas others prefer that perfect bite of crisp Chow Mein noodles.

All that matters is that you get the perfect dish to suit your taste buds. Just remember that, if you are making it at home, to work with the textures of the different dishes to your advantage.

If you are making Lo Mein, consider using softer ingredients that mush and mix with sauces better. Chow Mein noodles, however, work best with crunchier vegetables and meats, especially ones that have been perfectly browned to a crisp.

They might be basically the same dish, but the small differences between them can make a big difference.

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Sam Eskenazi

Sam is a writer from the UK with a strange fixation on making as many things from scratch as possible and eating all of it.

Whether it’s brewing beer, making hot sauce or tending his bees, Sam is determined to try and make everything himself, as well as writing or making videos about it as he goes. Follow him on Twitter @Aldrahill.

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