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Lo Mein vs Chow Mein

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Both Chow mein and Lo mein are dishes originating from Guangdong, China. Chow mein is stir-fried noodles, mixed up with vegetables and meat. For Lo Mein, by contrast, you only need to boil them and toss them up with vegetables and meat. Where Lo Mein is tossed, Chow mein is stir-fried.

 In this article, we cover the similarities and differences in cooking the two, as well as our favourite recipes and ingredients for preparing this delicious Chinese comfort food. Enjoy!


What’s the difference between Lo Mein and Chow Mein Noodles?

lo mein with pak choi, a lemon wedge, tofu, and metal prong
Lo mein and Chow mein both use the same sort of egg noodle as their base, made from wheat flour and egg. Some people say that Lo mein noodles have to be thicker than Chow Mein noodles so that, when cooking, the Lo Mein retains more of its noodly taste. 

In a Chow mein, unlike a Lo mein, the noodles are first fried to create a crisper texture. Lo mein noodles, by contrast, are boiled and then tossed into the stir-fry at the end of the meal to absorb the flavour when mixed with your sauce and other ingredients. Chow mein noodles are fried until crispy; lo mein are boiled until soft.


What Kind of Ingredients can I put in a Lo Mein and Chow Mein?

chow mein with bell peppers and coriander on a white plate next to uncooked noodles
Key ingredients in a Lo mein involve some kind of meat or fish with some vegetables for extra crunch and flavour – broccoli, scallions, cabbage, mushrooms, bok choy, and peas are all popular ingredients to mix into a Lo mein. 

You can traditionally add a broader range of ingredients to a Chow mein, like beans, sprouts, and pak choi. Like Lo mein, you can also add in meat or fish to base the taste of the meal around: beef, chicken, or prawns are common popular choices, or for vegetarians five-spiced tofu is delicious too! 

Don’t feel constrained by a recipe and feel free to add any vegetables you’d like to add flavour! As a comfort food and stir fry, you can add pretty much any vegetable ingredient and still get a good flavour. We personally love adding broccoli, bell pepper and carrot to get a delicious rainbow colour when cooking.


What is the Difference Between Lo Mein and Chow Mein Sauce?

chicken chow mein with red cabbage, onions, and egg noodles

There is no real difference in the sauce needed in a Lo mein compared to a Chow mein. You can make both with a combination of dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, broth, and water – the exact ratio depends on what kind of sauce and how much you are making. We love adding white pepper and blended mushroom to our sauce for an extra warm and filling flavour!

You should make enough sauce to make the noodles wet and absorb some of the flavours, but not so much that you end up with a puddle in the middle of your meal.

 Chow mein and Lo mein are both delicious dishes that are pleasing to the eye and can take minutes to cook once you have all your ingredients ready. There are also lots of different types of Chow and Lo mein – from the easy, cheap comfort foods that takeaways often make that made the dish famous, to gourmet meals which carefully balance the different flavours of each vegetable, brought out by an expert chef’s seasoning and choice of ingredients.

If you are looking for quality ingredients for your next Chow or Lo mein, have a look at our Chinese supermarket online for high-quality oriental ingredients to use in your next meal.

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