What is Lo Mein?
My dear friend, Mary, gently reminds me from time to time that she wishes to have a Nut Free Wok Allergy Aware Asian Fare recipe for Chicken Lo Mein and because I am intrigued, I think about how to make Chicken Lo Mein often. But I have been stumped for awhile. I’ve had Lo Mein a few times in my life and I couldn’t imagine why a plate of egg noodles, with small amounts of meat and veggies, with a bowl of broth on the side to pour over the noodles would generate a lot of enthusiasm or interest from many Nut Free Wok readers besides Mary. I personally would want a recipe for Chicken Chow Mein, stir fried chicken with vegetables, seasoned with sauce, a touch oily, and with “wok hay.” Because I know it’s too oily for me to make at home often, I usually whip together a lighter and simpler version at home. Make a stir fry, add some cooked noodles, add some seasoning, stir, and serve.
Nic’s Lo Mein
I belong to Food Bloggers Central, which his a fun and supportive group of food bloggers learning from each other. One of the founders, Nagi of Recipe Tin, organized a Blog Hop, where members can opt in to try out each other’s recipes and blog about their experiences. I was introduced to Nic at Nibbles by Nic and I decided to try her recipe for Lo Mein is Back (More Veggies & Healthier). It wasn’t anything like my recollection of a plate of egg noodles with a bowl of broth on the side but I was excited to try someone else’s recipe. I really wanted to try it exactly, without any modifications but I ended up adapting it with more pasta and a lighter sauce to suit our family’s preferences. I didn’t have cooked chicken on hand either, such as a rotisserie chicken breast, so I cooked some chicken thighs and chopped them rather than doing the usual slice, marinate, and stir fry. Because I have been busy with a home project, dinner was late, so I served up a dish, took a quick picture, and had dinner with my hungry family. The kids enjoyed some veggies with their noodles and I enjoyed some noodles with my veggies. Everyone was happy, full, and we had plenty for lunch the next day. Thank you, Nic, for sharing your recipe with me!
What’s Duck Sauce Got to Do with Lo Mein?
Still something about what is lo mein didn’t seem right to me. Is lo mein a stir fry with noodles in it or is it noodles with a bowl of broth on the side? I couldn’t publish this post and didn’t know what I didn’t know until I remembered the time my friend, Susan, tagged me in a Facebook post about a Smithsonian article, “What Exactly is Duck Sauce” to ask me what’s my opinion regarding duck sauce. Duck sauce? I had no idea. The resulting discussion was quite amusing as my east coast friends talked about their experiences with duck sauce and my west coast friends and I were basically baffled. My friends and I had some fun exchanges with our casual observations which led to some anthropological comparisons. I came to the realization that there are some differences between Chinese American cuisine on the East and West coasts and suddenly I wished I had eaten at some Chinese restaurants when I’ve visited the East coast!
The Great Lo Mein Mystery Solved!
I felt closer to figuring out what exactly is lo mein when I checked online and learned that on the west coast, lo mein refers to egg noodles with a bowl of soup on the side, it’s also known as Hong Kong style lo mein. On the east coast, lo mein refers to a dish that is a stir fried noodle dish seasoned with sauce, which people on the west coast call chow mein. When people on the east coast order chow mein, they are expecting a crispy fried noodle that is cake shaped with a stir fry with brown sauce on top. On the west coast, we refer to that kind of chow mein as Hong Kong style chow mein. Now I have a better idea of Mary’s request, we both want the same kind of recipe but we have different names for them because the same dish has different names depending on which coast you live. Thanks Mary, Susan, Nagi, and Nic for all being a part of this learning experience for me!
Allergy Aware Asian Fare
Lo Mein is usually made with a wheat based egg noodle but we avoid egg noodles due to my son’s allergy to egg. I have found that an allergy safe angel hair or capellini pasta works very well as a substitute for egg noodles. For this kind of recipe, you can easily substitute any kind of allergy safe pasta that won’t fall apart from the stirring. There are plenty of great soy sauce alternatives and if you want, you can also try making your own soy-free soy sauce. I like using Kikkoman, Wan Ja Shan (peanut/tree nut free facility), and San-J (they test their rinse water for nut residue) soy sauces. If one is allergic to corn starch, try substituting tapioca or potato starch instead. You can just omit or substitute the other ingredients with something similar, enjoy!
This recipe as written is free of peanuts, tree nuts, egg, dairy, shellfish, and fish.
Chicken & Vegetables Lo Mein
- 1 pound cappelini or angel hair pasta
- 5 boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 2 teaspoons olive oil divided
- 1/4 cup soy sauce or to taste
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil omit if allergic
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 bunch about 1 pound of garlic chive flowers (or garlic chives or chives)
- 4 carrots peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 pound snow peas trimmed and washed
Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente, rinse with cold water and drain in a colander.
Heat up a large skillet on medium high heat, add 1 teaspoon olive oil, and pan fry chicken on both sides until cooked thoroughly, set aside to cool, and chop into bite sized pieces.
Prepare sauce by combining soy sauce, water, rice vinegar, cornstarch, sesame oil (if using), garlic powder, ginger powder, and sugar in a small mixing bowl and set aside.
In the same skillet, add another teaspoon of olive oil and stir fry the garlic chives and sliced carrots until the chives are bright green (3-5 minutes)
Add snow peas, stir fry for 1 minute.
Rinse pasta with water if the strands are stuck together and add to the stir fry.
Stir sauce ingredients and pour over the noodles.
Stir to combine the noodles with the stir fry until the sauce thickens or is absorbed by the pasta.
References: Wikipedia on Chow Mein, Simply Chinese on Lo Mein