They both have “Mein” in their name, right? So, doesn’t that mean they must be the same thing? What are the key differences between chow mein and lo mein?
The Short Answer:
No, chow mein and lo mein are entirely different from one another.
The Long Answer:
If you’re looking under the noodle section of your local Chinese restaurant’s menu, you might be scratching your head trying to figure out the difference between chow mein and lo mein.
Both are noodle dishes, obviously, and they both come from the same type of egg noodle. So, they’re the same thing, right?
The “mein” difference (see what I did there?) is all in the preparation.
As I said above, the same noodles are used for both dishes. They typically come from egg noodles that are made from wheat flour. While lo mein is always a rounded noodle, chow mein can be either rounded or flat, depending on the cook’s preference.
Both dishes start out the same, parboiling the noodles and adding them into a mixture of stir fried ingredients. Chow mein is added to stir fry and then cooked until it becomes crispy. The end result is a variety of different textures within the final meal. Because chow mein noodles are fried to crispiness, they usually have a higher fat content than that of lo mein noodles, despite being the exact same base ingredient.
When making lo mein, fresh noodles are always used. The noodles are parboiled, much the same as they were in chow mein. After that, they can be added to stir fry and sauce, but the key difference is the amount of time they’re allowed to cook. Lo mein noodles are tossed in the pan for only the amount of time that it takes for them to soak in the sauce. Some cooks don’t even toss lo mein noodles in a pan. They simply pour the stir-fried meats and veggies on top of the noodles, pour the sauce over it, and stir it all together. Because of lo mein noodles’ ability to soak up sauce so well, these dishes tend to feature more sauce than chow mein. While both lo mein and chow mein are known to use a soy-based sauce, some recipes call for lo mein to be added to an oyster sauce.
When you go out for Chinese food, do you prefer lo mein or chow mein? What’s your favorite variety of these classic Chinese dishes? Sound off in the comment section below and let us know!