Chow mein and lo mein are one of the most popular Chinese dishes, but people often confuse them and end up ordering the “wrong” type of noodles.
To avoid eating and paying for a dish you didn’t want in the first place, now is the right time to learn the main difference between chow mein and lo mein!
Chow mein vs lo mein – what’s the difference? The main difference between chow mein and lo mein is that they are prepared in different ways. Lo mein means tossed noodles, and chow mein means fried noodles. Chow mein noodles are drier, have more fat, and a crunchy texture. Lo mein noodles are juicy, soft, low on fat, and have more sauce.
In this article, we’ll tell you what’s different between chow mein and lo mein noodles, explain different cooking methods, and share some tasty recipes.
Main Difference of Chow Mein vs Lo Mein
Most people think that the main difference between chow mein and lo mein is the type of noodles that are used in the dish. But actually, it’s the way the noodles are prepared that make chow mein and lo mein taste and look different.
Both lo mein and chow mein are Chinese noodle dishes. And while Chinese cuisine is often associated with rice, the Northern China region is more suitable for growing wheat than rice, and its dishes are mostly noodle based.
These days, a variety of Chinese noodle dishes can be found all over the world and they are an integral part of the American food culture. So whether you want to order take out or visit your favorite Chinese restaurant you’ll certainly find both lo mein and chow mein noodles on the menu.
Language or Name Difference
Since both chow mein and lo mein are Chinese noodle dishes, it’s safe to assume that their names can be interpreted. Mein literally means noodles in the Chinese language.
Chow means fried, so chow mein translates into fried noodles. Lo, on the other hand, means tossed, so lo mein literally means tossed noodles.
Chow mein and lo mein dishes start with egg noodles, which are made from eggs mixed with wheat flour. The actual noodles that are used in both dishes are the same, but the preparation process is what makes chow mein and lo mein so different.
To prepare a chow mein noodle dish you can use fresh or dried noodles that need to be parboiled or soaked in hot water. When preparing, chow mein noodles are boiled just for a few minutes so they aren’t fully cooked and are actually al dente.
There are two ways you can cook the actual dish, but essentially chow mein noodles are fried in a wok or a skillet until they are crispy and completely cooked.
On the other hand, lo mein noodles need to be cooked fully before they are mixed with meat, sauce, and vegetables. Once cooked, the noodles can be added to a stir-fried dish and simply tossed or stirred until they soak up the sauce.
As stated above, there are two ways to cook a chow mein noodle dish, ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which cooking method is easier and tastes better to you.
One way to cook chow mein is to first boil and then fry the noodles before adding veggies such as bean sprouts or sweet pepper and meat. The chow mein noodles are usually accompanied by a sauce that consists of ingredients such as sesame oil, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and broth.
Then again, chow mein noodles can also be immediately added to a stir fry dish until everything is nicely cooked and crunchy. The fried noodles are always the center and focal point of chow mein dishes with their delicious and crunchy texture.
Lo mein dish, on the other hand, isn’t stir-fried. Instead, the fully boiled noodles are added in a nearly cooked stir-fried dish and just tossed or stirred with the rest of the ingredients.
As an alternative, you can also stir the parboiled noodles with a sauce and just pour the stir-fried veggies and meat over them. Lo mein noodles are also softer and contain more sauce which can be made using soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar.
Type of Noodles
The egg noodles used for both lo mein and chow mein are the same and are made from eggs and wheat flour. Chow mein noodles can either be rounded or flat and lo mein noodles are usually slightly thicker.
Kitchen Tools Used
The great thing about chow mein and lo mein dishes is that you don’t have to be a professional chef or have any fancy utensils. Basically, you’ll only need:
- Skillet or a wok
- Chopping board
- Mixing spoon
Different Chow Mein Recipes
There are many different chow mein recipes you should try if you are a fan of crispy fried noodles. Just keep in mind that chow mein noodles are higher in fat and you might not want to indulge too much if you want to lose a few pounds.
Here are a few chow mein recipes you’ll want to try:
- Chicken chow mein
- Easy chow mein
- Classic Chinese chow mein
- Turkey and vegetables chow mein
- Vegetable chow mein
- Pork chow mein
Different Lo Mein Recipes
Below you’ll find some popular lo mein recipes that you can easily make at home. Rich in sauce and moist, lo mein noodles are low in fat since they aren’t fried and a safer option if you want to coddle yourself while on a diet.
Chow Mein vs Lo Mein Etymology
Chow mein and lo mein are anglicized names for Chinese traditional noodle dishes. The traditional name for chow mein is chao mian, which literally translates to stir-fried noodles.
Lo mein, on the other hand, is traditionally called lo mian and simply means tossed noodles.
While they look similar and are made from pretty much the same ingredients, chow mein, and lo mein aren’t quite the same. The next time you think of ordering this Chinese noodle delicacy you’ll know that chow mein and lo mein dishes are prepared differently.
Chow mein noodles are stir-fried, have a crunchy texture, and are drier. On the other hand, lo mein noodles are mixed or tossed, come with a lot of sauce, and are much softer.
Hopefully, you now know the main difference between chow mein and lo mein and won’t ever again be confused when ordering a Chinese noodle dish.
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