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Simple Chinese-American Chow Mein Recipe

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Chow mein with shrimp

Chow mein with shrimp

What Is Chow Mein?

Chow mein is a Chinese dish that has its origins in the northern regions of China. It consists of stir-fried noodles that can be accented with a variety of meats, seafood, and vegetables.

The dish gained popularity in the United States in the early 20th century with the arrival of Chinese immigrants, and it has since become a staple of Chinese-American cuisine. Chow mein literally means "stir-fried noodles" in Chinese. It can be categorized into two main types:

  1. Hong Kong-style chow mein: Typically uses thin crispy noodles, served in the form of a stir-fry, often topped with a savory gravy.
  2. American-style chow mein: Typically uses thick noodles that are steamed and then fried. Topped with more sauce than the Hong Kong style.


  • 8 ounces Chinese egg noodles
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces sliced protein (such as chicken, beef, or shrimp)
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish


  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil, then cook the Chinese egg noodles according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large wok or pan, heat the oil over high heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until softened and fragrant.
  3. Add the protein and cook until it is no longer pink.
  4. Add the cabbage, bell pepper, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened but still crisp.
  5. Add the cooked noodles and toss everything together until the noodles are heated through and coated with sauce.
  6. Garnish with green onions before serving.

Recipe Notes

  • This is a basic recipe; you can adjust ingredients according to your preference. You can add vegetables as you like, or even make it spicy by adding some chilli.
  • The key for great chow mein is the noodle. It should be soft yet have a nice chewiness.


  • Protein options: In addition to chicken, beef, and shrimp, you can also use pork, tofu, or even scrambled eggs as the protein source in your chow mein. You can also opt for a combination of proteins.
  • Vegetable options: Cabbage, bell peppers, and onion are traditional vegetables used in chow mein, but you can add other vegetables as well such as carrots, celery, mushrooms, bok choy, and bean sprouts. You can also add some fresh mung bean sprouts or leafy greens like bok choy or choy sum.
  • Sauces and seasonings: In addition to soy sauce and oyster sauce, you can use other sauces and seasonings to add flavor to your chow mein. Some popular options include hoisin sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and oyster sauce. You can also add a touch of fish sauce for an umami kick.
  • Add some spice: You can make your chow mein spicy by adding some chili paste, chili flakes, or fresh chili peppers. You can also add some Sichuan peppercorn for a numbing sensation
  • Noodles: The traditional noodle for chow mein is the Chinese egg noodle, but you can also use other types of Asian noodles such as Hokkien noodles, udon, or even spaghetti.
  • Cooking technique: A key point is to cook the dish over high heat, so that the ingredients are cooked quickly and the noodles retain their texture. Toss the ingredients frequently, cook everything evenly, and keep the heat high to make sure the ingredients are cooked through but not overcooked.
  • Toppings: Some people also like to add some extra toppings to the dish such as sesame seeds, peanuts, or fried onions. These add a nice crunch and extra flavor.

This is a dish that can be tailored to your preferences, try experimenting with different ingredients and seasonings to find the perfect combination for you.

© 2023 Mike Bouska