Chow Mein Vs Lo Mein What’s The Difference?
Knowing the difference between Chinese lo mein and chow mein is key to ordering your food properly in a Chinese restaurant. Both dishes are made with noodles, but the sauces and ingredients are different.
Both recipes share a home in the Chinese cuisine family, however, there are very clear distinctions between the two.
Chow mein is typically served with vegetables and a sauce, making it flavorful without being too spicy. Lo mein noodles, however, are usually incorporated into dishes, and they are thicker than most Chinese noodles.
First of all, the two dishes are not the same thing or even variations of the same meal. Chow mein is essentially fried, crunchy fresh egg noodles mixed with vegetables, while lo mein is a dish of boiled and fresh egg noodles mixed with vegetables.
When we talk about chow mein vs lo mein, we are talking about two unique dishes that have almost the same ingredients but taste quite different,
Let’s get started with a breakdown of the differences between chow mein vs lo mein!
What Is Chow Mein?
Chow Mein is a dish of stir-fried noodles mixed with vegetables and the sauce of your choice. The name chow mein comes from the Chinese words “Chao” and “mein.” When combined, it means fried noodles.
The dish was probably invented by Chinese immigrants in the United States. While chow mein is now associated with Guangdong (Canton) cuisine, it is believed migrants first prepared this dish in North America.
There are two main varieties in which Chow Mein is served. Most people are familiar with the type of Chow Mein which is made in Cantonese restaurants and is served on a bed of crunchy fried noodles.
Steamed chow mein:
Steamed chow mein dish is common in Northern China. The noodles are pan-fried before being steamed with vegetables and often meat or seafood. The steamed noodles are then combined with a soy sauce before being served.
Crisp chow mein:
Crisp chow mein dish is common in Western China. The steamed noodles are mixed with sauce and then deep-fried until crispy. This dish often contains a small amount of meat, usually pork or chicken. You can also try dark soy sauce or light soy sauce as per your preference.
Chow Mein Noodles
These are a type of Cantonese noodle, dried and prepared in a manner very similar to Italian pasta. The noodles are available in various thicknesses and widths, but they are all made from wheat flour.
Fresh egg noodles may also be used as a substitute for dried noodles and are often found in chow mein ingredients.
When purchasing noodles for chow mein, be sure to check the cooking instructions on the package.
Some noodles require a brief boiling before they are added to the dish, while others must be stir-fried before serving.
How to identify Chow Mein?
Usually, these fresh noodles are crispy, oily, and served on top of soft veggies. They are served with a very small quantity of sauce which is very thick. Chow Mein noodles are dry, while Lo Mein noodles are either wet or semi-wet. Hence it is known as a saucy noodle dish.
What Is Lo Mein?
Lo mein is a type of Chinese noodle dish that is made by cooking Chinese noodles in a meat and/or vegetable broth. The noodles are then served with the gravy of your choice, typically soy sauce or oyster sauce, along with vegetables and meat.
Lo mein is also known as “lomein” or “lmian” in some parts of China. Lo Mein translates to “noodles with gravy.”
The origins of lo mein are somewhat unclear, as the dish is a type of noodle that hails from Northern China, where wheat was more difficult to grow. Despite this, the dish is especially popular in Shanghai and Guangdong (Canton) provinces.
Is Lo Mein Healthy?
While the dish is typically prepared with white flour, lo mein can also be made with buckwheat noodles. These noodles are low in carbohydrates and high in protein, making them a healthy substitution.
Lo mein is typically stir-fried with vegetables and soy sauce to create a savory dish that is also hearty and filling due to the addition of meat or tofu.
Lo mein recipes can include but are not limited to the following:
- Vegetable Lo Mein
- Beef Lo Mein
- Chicken Lo Mein
- Shrimp Lo Mein
What are Lo Mein Noodles?
Lo mein noodles are thicker than most types of Chinese noodles, but they are also made from wheat flour. When purchasing wheat flour noodles, check the packaging for instructions.
The noodles may need to be stir-fried before use, although some lo mein noodles only require a brief boiling before use. Either way these tossed noodles along with lo mein ingredients create a delicious dish.
In Chinese, “lmian” means pulled noodles, which is a noodle made by stretching and flattening the dough into long strips before cutting them into noodles. The dough is then rolled out flat and cut into thin pieces before being boiled or used as part of the stir-frying process.
What’s The Difference Between Chow Mein and Lo Mein??
While both lo and chow mein dishes are found across Asia, they have very different origins and lineages of preparation. They can be prepared similarly, but they’re also often eaten very differently.
The following points will help us identify the difference!
The cooking method is the first step to distinguish between lo mein and chow mein. Chow Mein is first soaked in water (about 30 minutes at room temperature) to make it soft. Then it is cooked on high heat in the wok to create fried and crunchy noodles.
The ingredient of chow mein is mainly vegetables and a sauce which makes it flavorful without being spicy. You keep adding the ingredients as you cook it. You can add bean sprouts, green onion, bok choy, broccoli, carrots or cauliflower to your dish as you prepare chow mein.
In contrast, lo mein is never soaked in water before cooking. And instead of wok frying, the noodles are boiled and then other ingredients are added to make a stir fry.
If you do;t know the difference between the two Chinese dishes you could easily confuse chow mein with lo mein.
Chow Mein uses a small amount of sesame oil and is cooked on high heat. The vegetables are added continuously to stir fry them evenly. Chicken lo mein on the other hand is cooked and then all ingredients are added together.
Therefore, lo mein does not need additional oil for stir-frying the vegetables since the noodles will provide enough “fat” for stir-frying.
I would say that lo mein is crunchier than chow mein because lo mein noodles are thick and firm which provides optimum texture, while chow mein noodles are thin and soft. Lastly lo mein noodles are thicker while chow mein noodles are more delicate cooked noodles.
What’s the nutritional value of both?
Lo mein is more calorie and fat dense than chow mein. It’s considered to be healthier, though one must be more aware of what’s going inside.
If you’re trying to reduce calorie intake, go for steamed noodles and less oil.
Chow mein on the other hand has more saturated fat content, but it’s healthier in terms of sodium. It contains less oil than lo mein noodles.
Sodium In Noodles
The nutritional value also depends on how you cook them. If you’re cooking them at home, be sure to keep track of calories and fat content. Watch your sodium intake as well. Both are equally healthy only if they are cooked properly.
When you add vegetables to chow mein noodles, you must add broccoli, carrots, and celery. The veggies should be crunchy. When making lo mein, you can add onions or scallions and all types of vegetables to go with the savory sauce.
What To Serve With Chow Mein?
It’s typically served with vegetables and a soy sauce, such as soy or oyster sauce. The dish can also be served with meat or tofu to make it a well-balanced meal.
Chow mein is also often served with Cantonese roast pork, which adds flavor and color to the dish.
You can purchase ready-to-serve chow mein at most Asian grocery stores, and it is also relatively easy to prepare.
There are many delicious Chinese recipes you can serve with both lo mein and chow mein. Some of our favorite Chinese dishes include:
You can also try making chow mein or lo mein noodles at home.
Chinese vegetables are often used in chow mein recipes, but feel free to use your favorite vegetables. If you want to make vegetable lo mein, try adding carrots or broccoli for increased flavor and color!
Is Chow Mein Spicy?
Chow mein is not spicy in and of itself, but it can be flavored with spices and chili oil to add flavor and reduce the sweetness of some chow mein sauces. Simply add red pepper flakes to give your dish an edge or add bell peppers to the same dish.
What To Serve With Lo Mein?
It depends on how you’re serving it, but typically lo mein is served with vegetables and sauce such as soy sauce. It can also be served with meat or tofu.
You can also add fresh garlic and ginger to the dish for extra flavor and health benefits, making it a well-rounded meal.
Chinese Instant Pot Recipes You Will Love
We have collected the most popular Chinese instant pot chow mein recipes to serve with both lo mein and chow mein. When making a Chinese egg noodles dish, you can use either lo mein or chow mein noodles.
Here are some of our favorite recipes. Give them a try!
Instant Pot Chicken Chow Mein
This delicious recipe is easy and simple to cook and tastes so good! Try this chicken chow mein today! This recipe will satisfy your cravings. Also, make sure to try it when your friends and family come over.
Instant Pot Panda Express Chow Mein
Try copycat panda express chow mein in your Instant Pot today! It only takes 5 minutes of pressure cooking! It tastes just like the original chow mein you get from your local Chinese restaurant.
Chinese Lo Mein In 20 Minutes
This Chinese lo Mein dish is tender, delicious, and packed with flavor. Make Chinese lo mein in 20 minutes using your Instant Pot.
Enjoy these chow mein recipes the next time you plan on making Chinese food. You can use either chow mein or lo mein and you’ll be able to create authentic Chinese dishes that taste just like the ones at your favorite Chinese restaurant.
And with the Instant Pot, you can cook tasty lo mein or chow mein in less than half the time.
If you’re looking for ways to use your Instant Pot, be sure to check out these Chinese instant pot recipes above.
FAQs – Which is better chow mein or Lo Mein?
Which is better chow mein or Lo Mein?
It depends on where you’re getting the dish from. Lo mein and chow mein are typically eaten in different regions of China. Lo mein is more common in southern regions of China, especially Shanghai. As per taste, both dishes are equally delicious.
Which is thicker chow mein or Lo Mein?
Chow mein noodles are typically thicker than lo mein noodles. You can use either type of noodles to make chow mein or lo mein. According to taste, feel free to pick whatever noodle you like best for this dish.
Are Lo Mein noodles hard or soft?
Lo mein noodles are considered soft noodles. You can use either chow mein or lo mein noodles to make Chinese noodle dishes such as lo mein and chow mein. Both types of noodles are simple to make and taste delicious with any Chinese dish.
Does Chow Mein taste like Lo Mein?
No, chow mein does not taste like lo mein. It’s usually thicker and has a spicier flavor when compared to lo mein. You can use either noodle to make chow mein or lo mein, according to your preference.
Does Chow Mein taste like Lo Mein?
Though both lo mein and chow mein are made with noodles, they taste somehow different. Lo mein has a sweeter and less spicy flavor compared to chow mein. You can use either noodle to make chow mein or lo mein, it’s your choice.
The main difference lies in the way you cook it. Lo mein is more of a stir-fried noodle dish while chow mein is deep-fried and then cooked in a light sauce, but you can use either noodle to make chow mein or lo mein, based on your taste.
Which Do You Prefer?
Both chow mein and lo mein are equally delicious. It depends on your personal preference which noodle you use and the cooking methods you choose to make your chow mein or lo mein.
You can use either noodle to make chow mein or lo mein. You should try out different Chinese noodle dishes using both types of noodles to see which you prefer.