Basic Differences of Chow Mein vs Lo Mein

To you, the basic difference of Chow Mein vs Lo Mein may not be significant. Mein means noodles,  and to you, it doesn’t really matter whatever they are aslong as they are both noodles. If you think that both of them are the same, then you aren’t alone. There are also hundreds of people out there who think that all meins are the same. So, what are their true differences, really?

The Biggest Issues

The most confusing part about Asian noodle dishes is that they all look the same – although those who are used to eating noodles would disagree on this. Moreover, the noodles in American has somewhat experienced cultural changes. The noodles have been adapted to American style and may come in either sweet or salty taste. And both Chow Mein and Lo Mein are made from eggs and wheat flour. Not to mention that many restaurants have used the terms of Chow Mein and Lo Mein to refer to general (noodle) dishes. Quite a mess, right?

But no fear because there is actually a significant difference of Chow Mein vs Lo Mein. Once you understand the concept and the general characteristics, you should be able to tell the differences.

Chow Mein vs Lo Mein

Lo Mein Concept

As it mentioned before, Mein means noodles. Lo means tossed. So Lo Mein basically means ‘Tossed Noodles’. To make this noodles, the chef will add the cooked noodles (which have been boiled and then drained) to the work. However, he will cook the protein and veggies in the wok first and then the noodles are added last. Then, he will toss everything with the sauce. He will toss the noodles with the veggies lightly until they are heated enough thoroughly.

You can tell that you are eating Lo Mein if:

  • You can see that the noddles aren’t greasy
  • There is only a light sauce
  • The dish consists of veggies and most likely protein – and they have been properly tossed with the sauce and also the noodles

Chow Mein Concept

beef chow mein recipe

Chow means fried. So Chow Mein means Fried Noodles. Quite different from the previous one, right? In reality, there are 2 different types of Chow Mein:

  • The crispy Chow Mein. The noddles are cooked by pressing them flat to the pan. It looks like a pancake
  • The steamed Chow Mein. The noodles are fried while being coated and tossed in sauce after they are fried. The noodles are boiled first but they are always fried without any accompaniment (such as protein or veggies). It’s because the Chow Mein focuses on the noodles – being the star of the dish. Any add-ins of veggies or protein (if any) would be made as minimum as possible so people won’t be distracted by the flavor.

You know that you are eating a Chow Mein if:

  • The sauce is dark and thick
  • There is no or very little protein or veggies
  • The noodles are either crispy or oily

The differences may be subtle to the naked eyes or those who aren’t used to eating variations of noodles, but these two noodle types are different. Now that you already understand the difference of Chow Mein vs Lo Mein, what are you going to do?


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