Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Mein Idea.

Growing up, if we were in the mood for Chinese food, my mother would open up those blue cans of La Choy Chicken Chow Mein; heat the ingredients and top with the crispy "chow mein" noodles. I didn't like it; mushy and hardly any chicken, but living in a strictly Italian/Croatian neighborhood didn't give easy access to Chinese take out. As I grew older, finding a Chinese take out place or restaurant became easier as neighborhoods changed and developed; but I had a phobia about chow mein and refused to order it. Once, someone I was dining with ordered chow mein; it looked just like the canned stuff I abhorred, but served over white rice and no crispy noodles topping it. Yes, I was a bit nauseated by the sight, so made sure to keep my eyes on my own plate of chicken and broccoli; so much better by the way.

As I moved around and found different places to dine, I became more and more educated on Asian cuisine.  Thai, Japanese, Chinese, or Vietnamese became my first choice whenever asked, but my vote always lost out to American or Italian.  I purchased my first Wok back in 1982 and practiced making recipes as often as possible; I became pretty adept at stir frying.  Chow Mein though still remained my foe.  Moving to Utah, ingredients for Asian dishes, and good Asian restaurants, became almost impossible to find; my mother sent me "care packages" filled to the brim with packets of noodles, spices and bottles of sauces.  A favorite dish was Lo Mein which I posted on this blog a little over a year ago; and I'm reposting due to the nature of this current writing.

Seafood Lo Mein

Lo Mein


1 lb lo mein noodles (thin or flat)
4 Tbsp peanut oil, divided in half
½ cup each thinly sliced bell peppers and onion
¼ cup green onion, cut at an angle
1 ½ cups bite sized pieces chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, scallops, crabmeat (or any combination)
1 cup stock (chicken, beef or vegetable depending on protein used)
6 Tbsp oyster sauce
6 Tbsp dark soy sauce
4 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp each minced ginger and garlic
½ tsp ground white pepper
1 cup straw mushrooms
1 cup bean sprouts


Cook lo mein noodles according to package directions; set aside, but keep warm.

In a large Wok or skillet, heat 2 Tbsp peanut oil; add bell peppers, onion and green onion; sauté till softened.  Remove and set aside.  Add remaining 2 Tbsp peanut oil; sauté protein for 2 minutes before adding 2 Tbsp each of oyster and soy sauces; cook another minute, remove and set aside.

In same Wok or skillet, mix together 4 Tbsp each oyster and soy sauces, cornstarch, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and white pepper.  Bring to a boil and let cook 2 minutes to thicken; add back sautéed vegetables and cooked protein; add mushrooms, sprouts and lo mein noodles.  Mix together thoroughly and let cook together for 3 minutes; tossing frequently to coat and heat through.

Makes 6 servings.

Mary Cokenour
June 6, 2012

What about my Chow Mein phobia that I've been writing about?  Well one day I decided to be brave, order it and see if I could eat it without the gag reflex kicking in.  Surprise, surprise though; the place I was at served it an entirely different way than I'd ever seen before.  It was not mushy vegetables, microscopic shredded chicken swimming in sauce....there were noodles in it, the same type of noodles used in lo mein.  The waiter assured me that this was indeed Chow Mein, so you know I had to research it a bit and find out the why of it all.

Here's the gist of it, those crispy noodles that came with the LaChoy canned stuff were a substitute for real Chow Mein noodles.  Basically they are the same as those used for Lo Mein; however, after boiling them, they are then fried in oil into a solid mass; the remaining ingredients and sauces are cooked together and then poured over the fried noodles.  It's a texture thing really; soft lo mein noodles absorb the sauces more quickly; while fried chow mein noodles are simply coated, yet come apart easily to combine with the other ingredients.

Chicken Chow Mein

"Fear is the mind killer", is a classic line from the movie "Dune", and it is such a statement of truth.  In this instance, "Fear was the appetite killer"...key word "was".

Mary Cokenour

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