Using Your Noodle

I love Chinese-style wok fried noodles. If I’m going out to eat at a Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese or Malaysian restaurant, you can be guaranteed that a good percentage of the time I’m going to order some kind of stir fried wok noodle dish. You can also make these sort of noodles at home, and produce nice results, but it requires a slightly different technique than in a restaurant, because restaurant wok noodle dishes are made on much more powerful burners (a typical wok burner at a Chinese restaurant can produce 100,000 BTU, where even the best “Pro” home stoves can only produce about 20,000 BTU).

Here we’ve got some regular, run of the mill Lo Mein Noodles, which are made from wheat flour and eggs. In California and probably everywhere else in this country besides the NY metro area, they are called Chow Mein noodles. You’d find these at a Asian market, and they are pretty ubiquitous. You can also get “Wonton Skin Noodle” which is made of the same stuff, but are cut slightly differently. There are also various types of rice noodles you can buy which work equally well.

Want to learn how to use your noodle? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Fried noodles are great for using up leftover veggies of every kind — here I’ve got carrots, lettuce, red onion, garlic, celery, red pepper, and store-bought pressed fried tofu (which has been seasoned with a five spice brine). The key is to cut your veggies into very small pieces, so that they cook quickly and evenly.

To get that Chinese restaurant taste, I’ve got a combination of regular soy (Kikkoman) plus dark soy (in a 1/1 ratio), a shot of Chinese rice cooking wine, and a little bit of Oyster Sauce. I like Lee Kum Kee oyster sauce, which is a fairly common brand.

You also can’t get that Chinese restaurant taste without some kind of pork product in the mix. Here we’ve got some Char Siu, or Chinese Roast Pork, that I’ve bought from the Asian Supermarket and cut up into small pieces. I also like to use Chinese Sausage too.

I’ve separated out my “fast cook” meat and veggies that I’m saving for tossing in at the very end — cooked lobster meat, cooked corn kernels, chopped chives (which I am using in place of green onion here) and frozen peas. I’ve seasoned the top with fresh cracked pepper, since this whole mess is going to be tossed in at the end.

After all my Mise-en-place is ready, I cook the Lo Mein noodles for about a minute in boiling water, just to get the raw edge off. This is fresh pasta and it doesn’t need much more than that, and it’s also going to be fried in the wok. Drain and set the noodles aside.

Get your wok on the burner, running full blast for a few minutes so it gets nice and hot.

First the pork goes in, which we’re going to cook in order to render out some of the fat and make it nice and crispy, as you would crisp up bacon. Once it has been crisped up, remove it from the wok.

Next our cellulosy-veggies go in. Since we’ve rendered some fat from the pork, only add just a little bit of stir-fry oil at first. You can use any kind of vegetable oil, like a Wesson, but I like to buy the cooking blends sold at Asian supermarkets. You can see here I’ve got a nice big metal Chan, which is essential for doing Wok cooking. I bought my wok and my chan at a restaurant supply store in New York’s Chinatown, but you should be able to get them at any Asian market where you live.

Add a small amount of the soy sauce mixture, and Wok everything up good, until everything is fully cooked, but still has a bite to it. You don’t want mushy veggies.

Hit the pan with a bit more stir-fry oil and toss in the noodles and pork with the rest of the soy mixture.

Once you’ve got the noodles and pork added, and you’ve channed it up good for about a minute or two to get everything incorporated, add your fast cook veggies/pre-cooked seafood. By the way, the same technique for making noodle dishes works equally well for fried rice. Got some leftover containers of cooked white rice from the takeout Chinese you ordered a few nights ago? Go ahead and throw that in instead of the noodles.

Chan it up real good.


6 Responses to Using Your Noodle

  1. AR says:

    That looks delicious and really easy. I think I’ll try that myself.

  2. Harry says:

    Looks fantastic….but for a second there I thought you were going to add some U-Bet Chocolate syrup to the mix ! ;) I didn’t know they still make that.

  3. David says:

    Now hang on Jason . . . . here in southern California these kind of noodle dishes have always been known as “Lo Mein.” In fact, the term Chow Mein is very Nassau county.

    Even at Gam Wah, which I considered the Holy Grail, it was always “Shaw Main” as pronounced by my Brooklyn kin.

    But anyway, here in SoCal it’s always Lo Mein . . . chow mein is hard to find and comes with those awful pre-packaged hard baked noodle-things.

    By the way, I love your site. I’m a real “off The Broiler” fan.

  4. Maybe in Southern California because of all the NY transplants to L.A. But in San Fransisco, its deifinitely called Chow Mein. I’ve never seen “Lo Mein” at any restaurant in the Bay Area, the equivalent dish is always called Chow Mein.

  5. Sheamus says:

    Great site Jason. I was just surfing for some new recipes and ran across your site. To get that real “wok hei” you refer to try using a turkey-fryer setup for your wok (if you can cook outside that is). You can get upwards of 100,000 BTUs out of some and the wok will drop right into the frame if you make a careful selection. Just discovered this recently and now I’m hooked. I’ll probably get a few recipes and pictures up on my site in the next couple of months as I’m trying to get back into the kitchen again.

  6. Kroe's Nest says:

    Made this dish tonight! It was absolutely YUMMY! Just to add my two cents. . .in Oregon we refer to it as low mein too. Most of our chow mein has bean sprouts instead of noodles. ICK!

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