Give me a huge bowl of lo mein and I will be the happiest person in the room. I haven’t eaten in a mall food court in ages, but when I did, I would always order the biggest container of lo mein. It could be beef or chicken lo mein, heck, it could be plain with only sauce. I’m just all about the noodles.

What is lo mein

Lo mein is a super popular noodle dish that you’ll find both at restaurants and made at home. In Cantonese, lo mein means “mixed noodles”. In Mandarin, it’s pronounced “lao mian” and translates exactly the same. Essentially, it’s egg noodles mixed with sauce – somewhat similar to chow mein, but not quite.

In truth, it can mean a variety of different kind of noodle dishes, much like how you can order spaghetti in a variety of ways. In North America, we tend to associate lo mein with the American Chinese take out style of noodles: somewhat thick egg noodles stir fried and tossed with a soy based sauce, vegetables, and proteins.

Technically there are two kinds of lo mein, Cantonese Hong Kong style and American Chinese take out style. Both are a mixed stir fried noodle dish.

  • Cantonese lo mein is a kind of deconstructed soup noodle: thin and chewy egg noodles served on a plate with toppings and a bowl of soup on the side. The sauce for the noodles isn’t mixed in. Instead, you’re supposed to stir it into the noodles yourself. “Lo” means to mix or stir. Mein, of course, means noodles.
  • American Chinese lo mein is a stir fry noodle dish: thick noodles mixed with a soy sauce based sauce and toppings like beef, pork, chicken, or vegetables.

Both are delicious!

lo mein | www.iamafoodblog.com

Chow mein vs lo mein

The main difference between lo mein and chow mein are the noodles used. Lo mein noodles are thicker and chewier and chow mein noodles are thinner and crisper. Chow mein is cooked longer in the pan so the noodles become crispy and lo mein is simply tossed so the noodles stay soft. Pictured below: soy sauce chow mein.

Both kinds of noodles are made with flour, water, eggs, and kansui (which is what makes the noodles yellow and chewy). They differ mostly in hydration and shape. Lo mein noodles have a higher hydration and are thicker which makes them chewier and more plush. Chow mein noodles are thinner, drier, and crisp up more because they have a lower hydration. After cooking, lo mein noodles are soft and supple and chow mein noodles are springy and chewy.

soy sauce chow mein | www.iamafoodblog.com

How to make lo mein

This is probably the easiest take out dish you can make. All you need to do is make a quick sauce, cook the noodles, add some veggies, and toss:

  1. Make the sauce. In a small bowl, mix together light and dark soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, sugar, and ground ginger.
  2. Cook the noodles. Cook the noodles according to the package, drain, and set aside.
  3. Fry the aromatics. Heat up a bit of oil and lightly fry some garlic until it smells amazing.
  4. Add the mix-ins. I kept this simple with veggies, but you can add protein too, more on that later.
  5. Toss. Add the noodles and sauce into the pan and toss everything until it’s evenly coated.
  6. Enjoy. That’s it! Slurp away.

lo mein ingredients | www.iamafoodblog.com

Lo mein noodles

For lo mein you need lo mein noodles. You can find them at your local Asian grocery store or you can substitute spaghetti or any long pasta.

  • Fresh pre-cooked lo mein noodles. In an ideal world, you’ll find cooked lo mein noodles in the refrigerated section of your local Asian grocery store. Sometimes they’re called oil noodles. They keep them with the fresh noodles and dumpling wrappers. Since they’re already cooked, you don’t need to boil them. Open up the package, place the noodles in a colander, and give them a rinse with hot tap water, loosening them with your hands. Drain well.
  • Fresh uncooked lo mein noodles. You’ll also find fresh uncooked noodles in the same section. Cook them according to the package and drain thoroughly.
  • Spaghetti. If you can’t find lo mein noodles, you can easily substitute spaghetti. Dried spaghetti is ideal, and you can even use any other long pasta of your choice.

lo mein noodles | www.iamafoodblog.com

Lo mein sauce

The sauce is what makes this dish so addictive. It’s a simple umami filled mix of light and dark soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, sugar, and a hint of ginger.

It’s super easy to make a batch of lo mein sauce and keep it in the fridge so you can easily make lo mein whenever the craving hits.

In a large measuring cup, mix together:

  • 1/2 cup light soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp ground ginger

Because all of the items are fridge stable, you can mix up a bit batch, pop it in a clean air tight container and then just place it in the fridge and add it to your noodles to taste. You’ll need about 1/4 cup of sauce for each batch of lo mein, but you can add more or less according to how saucy you like your noodles.

Note: Many lo mein sauces on the internet contain oyster sauce and while oyster sauce is super delicious, we kept it vegetarian/vegan here without. If you want to add oyster sauce for an extra bit of umami, you can add 2 tbsp oyster sauce to the above recipe.

What is dark soy sauce?

Dark soy sauce is a thick, dark soy sauce that’s slightly less salty then regular soy sauce. It’s extra dark from a longer fermentation of soy beans. You might be tempted to skip dark soy sauce, but if you have the chance to buy a bottle, do it because it’ll last you a long time and bring a lot of joy into your life! Dark soy sauce adds a beautiful glossy brown to Chinese dishes and also adds caramel sweetness and depth. You can find it online or at your local Asian grocery store.

making lo mein | www.iamafoodblog.com

Toasted sesame oil

Don’t sleep on toasted sesame oil. It’s pure nutty, toasty aromatic umami. The toasted stuff is completely different from regular sesame oil. Our favorite is Kadoya, which comes in an iconic yellow topped bottle. It’s available online and in most grocery stores.

One Pan Sesame Chicken Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Mix ins

The beauty of lo mein is that you can add virtually anything to it and it will taste amazing. Any and all proteins and vegetables are welcome to the party. Just make sure to cut everything into bite size pieces.

How to velvet meat

This recipe is completely vegan, but we often make it with either chicken, pork, or beef. The secret to super tender, juicy meat in lo mein (or all Chinese stir fries) is velveting. Velveting is the classic Chinese technique of marinating meat with cornstarch, oil, and seasonings. This helps tenderize and season the meat. The cornstarch gives the meat a small barrier against heat so it stays extra juicy when you’re cooking it.

Chicken lo mein

Slice 1/2 lb chicken breast or thighs into 1 inch pieces and toss in a quick marinade: 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp dark soy sauce, 1 tsp oil, and 1 tsp cornstarch. Add to the pan after the garlic is fried and cook, stirring occasionally until cooked through. Proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Beef

Slice 1/2 lb sirloin, flank, or tri-tip steak into 1 inch pieces and toss in a quick marinade: 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp dark soy sauce, 1 tsp oil, and 1 tsp cornstarch. Add to the pan after the garlic is fried and cook, stirring occasionally until cooked through. Proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Pork

Slice 1/2 lb pork chop or pork shoulder into 1 inch pieces and toss in a quick marinade: 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp dark soy sauce, 1 tsp oil, and 1 tsp cornstarch. Add to the pan after the garlic is fried and cook, stirring occasionally until cooked through. Proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Shrimp

Peel and devein 1/2 lb shrimp and toss in a quick marinade: 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp dark soy sauce, 1 tsp oil, and 1 tsp cornstarch. Add to the pan after the garlic is fried and cook, stirring occasionally until cooked through. Proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Spicy lo mein

To make these noodles spicy, stir in 1-2 tsp of your favorite hot sauce into lo mein sauce. I like using chili oil or chili crisp – my favorite is Lao Gan Ma.

lo mein | www.iamafoodblog.com

Why you should make lo mein at home

  1. It’s fast. Making lo mein is not some complicated affair, it comes together in one pan and it’s fast! Faster even than ordering takeout. Plus it’ll be fresher and hotter.
  2. It doesn’t need any fancy ingredients, just one good bottle of soy sauce (two if you’re feeling fancy), toasted sesame oil, and fresh or ground ginger. Super easy!
  3. You can add anything you want to it. Think clean out your fridge style, add all and any veggies that are languishing in the crisper. Veggies for health, noodles for fun!
  4. The sauce is delicious on EVERYTHING. The sauce is what makes these noodles delicious and super addictive. You can even make up a big batch, keep it in a squeeze bottle in the fridge, shake it up and then just squeeze it into the pan.

FAQ

  • What kind of noodles
    Oil noodles are my noodle of choice (see above in the noodles section) but you can definitely use spaghetti or buy dried noodles on amazon. Wu Mu brand dry noodles, from Taiwan are egg free and really popular.
  • Are lo mein noodles gluten free?
    Lo mein noodles aren’t gluten free but if you like, you can make this recipe with rice noodles, which are gluten free. You need to make sure to rinse off the rice noodles after cooking in cool water because they have a tendency to stick together. After you rinse them off, follow the recipe as usual.
  • Why do you need two types of soy sauce
    The mix of dark and light soy sauce is what makes this recipe shine! The light soy sauce adds saltiness and umami and the dark soy sauce adds a beautiful glossy color, a touch of caramel sweetness, and depth. If you don’t have dark soy sauce, you can skip it, but it’s what really makes this recipe a winner.

What to serve with lo mein

Happy noodling!

 

lo mein recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Lo Mein

Way better than takeout
Serves 6
4.76 from 37 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 25 mins

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 lb lo mein noodles or spaghetti prepared, see notes
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 cup mushrooms sliced, crimini preferred
  • 1 small carrot julienned
  • 1 cup snow peas
  • 2-3 cup spinach baby spinach preferred
  • green onions thinly sliced, to finish, as needed

Instructions

  • In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the soy sauces, sesame oil, sugar and ground ginger. Set aside.
    Thai Basil Chicken Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Heat the oil over medium heat and add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally until slighly golden.
    cooking garlic | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Turn up the heat to medium high and add the mushrooms, cooking and tossing occasionally, until soft.
    cooking mushrooms | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Add the carrots and snow peas and toss for 1-2 minutes, until tender crisp.
    vegetable lo mein | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Mix in the noodles, spinach, and sauce. Toss until well combined. Taste and season with salt, if desired. Sprinkle on the green onions and enjoy immediately.
    lo mein | www.iamafoodblog.com

Notes

Cook the lo mein or spaghetti according to the package. If you are using precooked lo mein noodles, loosen gently under hot tap water. Drain well.

Estimated Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Lo Mein
Amount Per Serving
Calories 276 Calories from Fat 44
% Daily Value*
Fat 4.9g8%
Saturated Fat 0.7g4%
Cholesterol 55mg18%
Sodium 461mg20%
Potassium 346mg10%
Carbohydrates 47.7g16%
Fiber 1.3g5%
Sugar 2.9g3%
Protein 10.9g22%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

25 Comments

  1. Susan says:

    5 stars
    This Lo Mein looks bananas good! You definitely have a way with noodles.

    The West Coast doesn’t have split hot dog buns?! As a native Haligonian, I had no idea split hot dog buns were an East Coast novelty. I will appreciate them more now.

    Enjoy the Island!

  2. Chantel says:

    5 stars
    This looks so yummy.

  3. cynthia says:

    Yay PEI!!! Hope you guys are having the most amazing time! As amazing as this lo mein looks :)

  4. Alex says:

    5 stars
    Your vacation sounds dreamy! One should be so lucky as to get sick of eating lobster haha ;)

  5. Angela says:

    5 stars
    Oh my goodness! Those noodles look so yummy!

  6. Maria says:

    5 stars
    So we literally go to restaurants JUST for the lo mien. This looks super similar to what we order at one of our absolute favorite spots. I CANNOT wait to try it! My husband loves any hot asian noodle dish for dinner period!

  7. Max says:

    5 stars
    This looks delicious! Can’t wait to try it out.

  8. Sarah says:

    5 stars
    Girllll…I’m gonna make this er’y day. Omg.

  9. Ellen says:

    Can you explain the difference between dark and light soy sauce? And maybe what brand you use? I’m having trouble sourcing it. :) Thanks!

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi ellen!
      light soy sauce is thinner (and lighter, hence the name). it’s used for seasoning and is the most commonly used soy sauce. it’s referred to as regular soy sauce too. dark soy sauce is thicker, darker, and not as salty. it’s used to give chinese food that classic dark look. it’s used for braises and marinades.

      as for brands, i like lee kum kee and pearl river bridge!

      hope that helps! if you can’t find the dark soy sauce, just use light, your noodles won’t be as dark but it should taste good! play around with the seasoning :)

  10. Justin says:

    4 stars
    Hey Stephanie!

    Tried making this yesterday and although it was absolutely delicious, my batch didn’t look like it had enough sauce on it (ended up putting more soy sauce on it while I was eating it). I did add pork to this recipe to have some additional protein (so maybe that absorbed some of the sauce?), but your picture looks like you got a nice even coat of sauce on all the noodles. Just wanted to see if you had any suggestions, thanks!

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi justin,
      you’re right, the pork probably absorbed some of the sauce. you can always double the sauce before you start cooking, then add it to taste :) any leftover sauce can just hang out in the fridge. hope that helps!

  11. Carolynne says:

    5 stars
    Sounds like my recipe except I sauté boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Add baby bok choy, a chopped tomato And top it all with toasted sesame seeds. My family loves this.

  12. May says:

    5 stars
    Made this today and it was delicious, would definitely make again!

  13. Jen says:

    I think there is a regional difference too. In the west coast, it’s called chow mein and in the east coast it’s called lo mein and chow mein for thinner noodles. I’ve never seen it called lo mein in the west coast.

    1. Elizabeth says:

      Lo mein and chow mein in the Texas Hill Country…Austin area:
      chow mein here is w crispy noodles, lo mein, (heavenly) softer and thicker noodles.
      Love this site; thank you for sharing wonderful cooking knowledge!

  14. Dale says:

    I substituted mushroom dark soy for plain dark soy. I also use oyster sauce in the sauce part. In the oil I use garlic and ginger with finely minced scallion ( 1000 apologies , sometimes I use garlic and ginger paste,it mixes so well).

  15. EB says:

    5 stars
    Very delicious and easy meal.

  16. Jack says:

    5 stars
    I love lo mein and never thought I would get it right. Decided to try it and followed this recipe. Wow. Awesome. I used mushrooms, onions, bok choy, and then topped with green onions. Pork was my protein. Cannot believe I got it right – all because the recipe and instructions were excellent. i am a food blog as a new fan and follower – this guy.

  17. Laura says:

    5 stars
    Ginger is mentioned in the ingredients but the directions don’t mention when to add it. I suppose it doesn’t matter but can you clarify, please. By the way, I love this recipe! Delicious and quick!

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi, it’s stirred into the sauce with the soy sauces, sesame oil, and sugar!

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