If you are a fan of one of the best cuisines in the world-the Chinese cuisine you probably already know about these meals. For a person who isn’t familiar with these dishes, it would be difficult to differentiate them except for the notable fact that the noodles used to make Chow Mein and Lo Mein are different.
When you speak noodles dishes or Mein then the Chow Mein and Lo Mein must come to mind. They are not only easy to make but also colourful, delicious and tasty. While most people are afraid of the sodium levels in the ingredients, I must say that I never worry about it and instead I focus on using more vegetables to balance the nutrients.
From the images you can see that Chow Mein is normally crispy while the Lo Mein is soft. This means that the major distinction is in the noodles used.
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Differences between chow Mein and lo Mein
While they may look similar, these two dishes are different. The subtopics below highlight the differences.
What is Chow Mein?
This is a dish of stir-fried noodles with meat (chicken, beef, fish turkey, pork among others) and vegetables (mostly onions and celery). The chow Mein is stir fried on both sides to make sure they turn brown. You can have them in steamed or crisp variation. The crispy noodles are flat while the steamed ones are round and you can use soy sauce or another thick brown sauce when serving.
What is Lo Mein?
This is a dish of wheat flour noodles with vegetables and some meat like pork, chicken, seafood among others. You need to boil the Cantonese noodles and then toss in meat, vegetables and served with a sauce. They come in different shapes and sizes.
Both lo Mein and chow Mein originated from the northern part of China. Wheat flour, water and eggs are used to make the noodles. As you probably know the northern part of China was originally known to have more wheat-based dishes as opposed to the southern part where they like rice-based dishes.
The word Mein from the name Chow Mein and lo Mein or mian in Chinese means noodles. Lo Mein is tossed noodles while Chow Mein is stir-fried noodles. Although these dishes have their origins in China, they are widely spread in Chinese restaurants around the globe. In fact, the dishes are greatly loved in America.
Type of noodles used in the preparation
It is important to note that you make both the Lo Mein and Chow Mein from Chinese noodles. You can either use the available flat or round noodles where the Lo Mein mostly uses the round noodles while with the Chow Mein can use the round or flat noodles.
In addition, you can use either fresh egg noodles or dried ones and in either cases when you want to prepare the meal, you have to soften the noodles first. Now, the fresh noodles are preferred for the Lo Mein at all times while the dried ones are best for the Chow Mein dishes.
Always follow the noodles package instructions. Although, depending on the noodles thickness, in the case of fresh noodles the boiling time maybe 2-3 minutes while the dried noodles will need about 5-8 minutes.
When cooking Chow Mein, the egg-wheat flour noodles, some kind of meat and vegetables are essential. Although you must fry the noodles first. The other ingredients include:
- Green onions
- Beans sprouts
You can either use:
- Peanut oil
- Sesame oil
- Chicken broth
- Soy sauce
- White pepper
As for Lo Mein, the egg-wheat flour noodles and meat are the basic ingredients of choice. Remember, boiling the noodles to al Dante is essential. In addition, you need the ingredients below:
- Green and sweet onions
- Celery stalks
Use either of these:
- Sea food
- Soy sauce
Note, there seem to be similarity in the ingredients used but I wish to inform you that the noodles used for the Lo Mein are usually thicker than the ones for Chow Mein.
Method of preparation
The method of preparation varies from region to region. However, in both instances, as discussed above the noodles used are Chinese noodles. In the case of Chow Mein, using either flat or round noodles you begin by parboiling the noodles then stir-frying them.
Meanwhile, you can stir fry the vegetables and meat then add the stir-fried noodles and continue to stir-fry until cooked. Alternatively, you can stir-fry your noodles after boiling and then pour your stir-fried meat and vegetables over the noodles.
As for Lo Mein, you start by parboiling your noodles, then add them to your stir fry vegetables and meat of your choice. The difference is that the mixture should have a lot of sauce. Toss the noodles in the sauce and mixture until they absorb the ingredients and are ultimately nicely cooked.
Another alternative is tossing the parboiled noodles in the sauce then add the stir-fried ingredients to the noodles.
As you can see, the Lo Mein noodles should be boiled until al dente and set aside. This is because the common method of cooking it has the noodles added to the stir-fried ingredients at the end of the cooking process. You just need to toss it a bit and serve. On the contrary, the Chow Mein noodles must be stir fried first.
Nutritional differences and facts
It is true to say that Chow Mein which has its noodles fried has a higher concentration of fat although all this depend on the restaurant preparing the meals and the sauces they make in the process. The Lo Mein sauce is usually thicker than the Chow Mein one which means they use more corn-starch.
To further break this down, we check the calories, vitamins and fibre to see the nutritional facts
For your 50gm chicken Chow Mein, you expect to consume about 42.5 calories and 1.4 grams of fat with about 0.25 saturated fat. This is better than the same amount of vegetable Lo Mein which has 60.5 calories and 1.2 grams of fat where 0.25 is saturated. If you are avoiding various heart-related diseases then you should choose diets with lower saturated fats.
- The fibre
If you use the 50 grams of chicken Chow Mein you will get about 0.5 grams of fibre while for your Vegetable Chow Mein will give you about 0.6 grams. As for 50 grams of vegetable Lo Mein, you will get 0.7 grams of fibre. Remember, fibre is essential for your digestion process
- Vitamins and minerals
A 50 gram of chicken Chow Mein has 0.4 milligrams of iron while for the same portion of vegetable Chow Mein you get 0.2 milligrams of iron. You do know that iron is essential for the body oxygen transportation.
For the same potion of Lo Mein, you get 0.5 grams of iron. They also have a good portion of vitamins A, K & C as well as Niacin, potassium and magnesium.
Therefore, the dishes have almost similar nutrients but, if you use more vegetables then you make your dish more nutritious.
Some facts you ought to know
There is a regional difference in this dish for example
A Japanese Brazilian cuisine will give you a plate of Chow Mein that is similar to the American one which entails crispy noodles with a lot of soy sauce and sesame oil.
The Canadians, on the other hand, serve deep fried thinner noodles with sauce as the Chow Mein while the Indians mostly serve it with vegetable as opposed to meat.
Although the Lo Mein dishes do not tremendously differ, the west coast US will serve you Chow Mein that is referred to as Lo Mein in east coast US.
This can cause some confusion but if you are familiar with it you only need to ask for Chow Mein if you are from east coast US and you are on the west coast needing a Lo Mein.
Which is better between Chow Mein and Lo Mein?
It is hard to have a distinctive cut as to which is better than the other. It all goes down to individual taste preferences at different times. If you are looking for the crispy texture you may have to take the Chow Mein. If you love your food having some sauce and noodles that absorbed the sauce ingredients then the Lo Mein will serve your palate well.
You see, the Chinese believe that the noodles increase the human lifespan no wonder, you are never supposed to break the noodles. There are a number of recipes you could use in the preparation of Chow Mein and Lo Mein. As long as you are a passionate cook, you should try the vegetarian kinds as well as meaty ones.
From the article above you can see that there are a number of similarities with Chow Mein and Lo Mein. The major difference is the noodles. While they are both egg-wheat noodles the thickness of the noodles differs from one meal to the next. You stir-fry Chow Mein noodles while Lo Mein has its noodles boiled.
So, depending on the region you are visiting be sure to explain to your waiter in the restaurant exactly what you mean by Chow Mein or Lo Mein. This is to ensure you get what you are looking for.