An article from “Eat This, Not That” by Cheyenne Buckingham breaks down all the differences between Italian and Asian noodles.
I started wondering a bit this week, after I bought a package of lo mein noodles and the finished product really didn’t look a whole lot different from spaghetti, so of course, I had to do a deep dive on the subject.
There is a difference, it turns out. Buckingham interviewed Chef Chris Barch, who said ingredients are the main variation.
“For example, soba uses buckwheat, lo mein uses eggs, rice noodles use rice,” he said. “Italian pasta essentially has two main pasta doughs: egg dough and non-egg dough.”
So, yeah, you totally could use spaghetti instead of lo mein noodles, but you’re probably not going to get the full flavor and texture you’re looking for. So even if they’re a little tougher to find, when you try this week’s recipe, I highly recommend traditional Asian noodles.
The recipe I tried comes from the blog “Dinner then Dessert” by Sabrina Snyder. You can find the original post at https://dinnerthendessert.com/chicken-lo-mein/. I added extra garlic in my version and left out the bean sprouts.
Chicken Lo Mein
- 10 ounces lo mein noodles
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil divided
- 2 large chicken breasts cut into thin strips
- 1 red bell pepper cut into thin strips
- 1 large carrot cut into thin strips
- 1/2 cup green onions thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger minced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce or fish sauce
- 1/2 cup cabbage shredded
- sesame seeds and/or green onions for garnish
- Cook the noodles according to the package instructions; drain them and toss them with the sesame oil. Set aside.
- In a large skillet, heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat.
- Saute the chicken in batches, cooking four or five minutes on each side until it is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan to a plate for now.
- Add the pepper, carrot and green onion to the skillet and saute until they are cooked through to your liking.
- Add the ginger and garlic to the vegetables. Saute for one to two minutes or until the garlic is very lightly browned.
- In a small bowl, mix 3/4 cup water, soy sauce, cornstarch, one tablespoon vegetable oil and oyster sauce, and then pour it into the skillet. Also add the cabbage. Let it cook for just a couple minutes, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens and the cabbage wilts.
- Add the chicken and noodles back to the pan, and stir to coat everything in the sauce. Turn the heat to medium-low. Once everything is heated back through, serve, topped with sesame seeds and freshly sliced green onions, if you like.
On her blog, Snyder notes that this is a lot like takeout Chinese food, and I have to agree. It was a fabulous dinner, and then it heated up for leftovers about as well as normal Chinese restaurant leftovers do. We served ours with some fried rice (Joey accused me of stacking carbs), and it made for a great dinner.
When you do this, make sure to thinly cut your vegetables and really try to get a consistent thickness on your slices. That will help everything cook quickly and evenly.
And don’t forget to get the right noodles for the job. Spaghetti is great in a lot of applications, but in this case, lo mein is a must.
This piece first appeared in print on Jan. 18, 2024.
Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.