So you’ve decided to try cooking a popular Asian stir-fry. The recipe calls for mei fun, and you rush to your local Asian supermarket. Once you reach the noodle aisle, you’re overwhelmed with rice noodles, egg noodles, chow fun, and vermicelli. Which noodle is the right noodle?
Chow fun vs. mei fun, what exactly is the difference?
Chow fun and mei fun have one significant difference, and it’s to do with the thickness of the noodle. Chow fun is a flat and wide noodle about an inch wide. There are also wider varieties available. Mei fun, on the other hand, is a fragile and thin noodle that resembles vermicelli.
If you’d like to learn more about the difference between chow fun and mei fun, this guide will provide all the details you need.
What Is Chow Fun?
Chow fun (traditionally known as gōn cháau ngàuh hó or hor fun) is a wide, flat type of rice noodle that’s used in Cantonese dishes and is made with a tasty soy sauce. The noodles are made from rice flour, which means they’re gluten-free.
The great thing about this dish is it can be prepared in 30 minutes.
You can buy chow fun noodles fresh or dried. The fresh option can be used immediately, whereas the dried option must be soaked in hot water first. This famous dish is versatile and can be served as a starter or a main course.
Here’s a look at the ingredients used in a traditional recipe for beef chow fun:
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 lb thinly sliced steak
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon of pepper
- 3 minced garlic cloves
- 14 ounces chow fun
- 2 cups of bean sprouts
- ½ cup of green onions
- 1 cup of thinly sliced yellow onions
Top Tip: If you’d like the beef to have the same melt-in-your-mouth texture that the restaurants have, add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda to your beef marinade and let it sit for an hour. The longer you leave the meat to marinate, the softer it becomes.
What Is Mei Fun?
Mei fun is a type of noodle that’s used in famous Asian cuisine and stir-fries. Dishes such as Singapore mei fun are made with the mei fun thin rice noodles, also known as vermicelli or rice sticks.
Mei fun is made from water and ground rice, making it gluten-free and perfect for people with gluten intolerance. The noodles are very thin and have a translucent appearance when they are dry.
Once mei fun is cooked (avoid boiling the water as the noodles are very fragile), the noodles become rather sticky with white color.
Here’s a look at the ingredients used in a traditional recipe for Singapore mei fun:
- 12 frozen shrimp
- 5 ounces of mei fun or vermicelli
- 2 eggs
- 4 ounces of roast pork
- 2 tablespoons of oil
- 1 medium carrot
- 3 dried chili peppers
- 1 tablespoon dry cooking sherry
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon of soy sauce
- ½ red onion
Good to know: Although the traditional recipe for mei fun is gluten-free, some modern manufacturers add egg, tapioca, wheat, and other starches to the noodles.
Always check the packaging before buying your mei fun.
Difference Between Chow Fun and Mei Fun?
Chow fun and mei fun are often mistaken to be the same thing. Although they are both very popular in Asian cuisine, these two noodle types have obvious differences.
Here’s a look at some of the main differences between chow fun and mei fun:
Let’s take a look at the origin story of these two noodles:
- According to legend and folktale, chow fun was invented in Guangzhou during World War II. People were starving and had no potato starch to thicken their soups and stir-fries.
A man named Mr. Hui added dry noodles to his food to thicken it, creating chow fun. The dish was served in yum cha restaurants, where food was pretty affordable.
- Mei fun also originates from China and is very popular throughout Asia. The noodles are versatile and can be found in most household pantries.
Even though these noodles are famous in Asian cuisine, they do have different uses:
- Chow fun is used in stir-fries with meat such as beef, pork, and chicken. The meat, vegetables, and soy sauce are fried with sesame oil in a wok until soft. Occasionally the chow fun noodles are added to hearty meat and vegetable soups.
- Mei fun is also used in stir-fries and soups. They are also excellent for Vietnamese bun or pho and spring rolls. They also go very well in chilled noodle salads.
Noodle Appearance and Texture
Let’s take a closer look at the difference in appearance between these two noodles:
- Chow fun noodles have a more flat, thick, and wide appearance. The noodles also have a yellow color to them. Once cooked, the noodles have a soft texture.
- Mei fun noodles are more delicate and thin looking than chow fun (similar to vermicelli). They have a transparent appearance when they are dry and turn white when they’re cooked. These noodles are slightly chewy and firmer than chow-fun noodles.
Top Tip: It can be easy to get confused between these noodles. Ensure you choose chow fun or mei fun noodles if you are gluten intolerant.
Chow mein (which is very similar) noodles are wheat-based and contain gluten.
Is Chinese Mei Fun Healthy?
Chinese Mei fun can be a very healthy dish, depending on what you add to the noodles.
For example, Singapore mei fun contains several vegetables (bell peppers, bean sprouts, and garlic) and shrimp or lean meat.
Most of the ingredients used in mei fun are low in calories and fat. It’s also important to remember that even though the mei fun noodles are gluten-free, the sauce and added ingredients may have gluten.
Is Mei Fun Good for Weight Loss?
Mei fun is a good option for weight loss.
Cooking Tom yum soup with mei fun noodles is a great way to aid weight loss (or maintain a suitable weight) as it’s low in calories and contains numerous vegetables. Mei Fun also has very little fat.
Did you know? The word “fun” in mei fun and chow fun refers to any type of rice noodle and not the “fun” we are used to in English.
My Last Foodie Thoughts
As you can see, these two tasty noodles have quite a number of similarities and differences. While it might seem like it doesn’t matter which noodles you put in a dish, it actually makes quite a difference.
As a “rule”, chow fun shouldn’t be substituted for mei fun and vice versa.
The texture, preparation, and look of the dish are very different from one another. However, if you were preparing a dish such as beef chow fun for guests unfamiliar with Asian cuisine, they might not notice the difference.
So it all boils down to how you want to present your dish.