Chinese-Style Chow Mein

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My Mama’s crispy noodles, served with a saucy stir fry packed with veggies, is my husband Gavin’s favorite meal. The fact that he refers to the sauce as gravy makes me laugh — but it does have the same soul-warming characteristics as the American classic. While executing the recipe, you might produce a small mess, which is common when deep frying in a wok — but the dish is well worth the effort. To avoid smoking up the house (and to the delight of her neighbors), my Mom cooks in the backyard on a gazebo-shaded camping stove.

Another bonus is that you can really make the sauce with any vegetables and protein you have on hand or whatever’s in season. My favorite version has carrots, whole baby corn, celery, bamboo shoots and chicken, but feel free to build your own combination, whether you like mushrooms and scallops or cabbage and sliced flank steak. Tip: Serve with pickled jalapeño for extra flavor.

Chinese-Style Chow Mein (Crispy Noodles with Sauce)

Ingredients:

Fried Noodles
14–16 ounces fresh Chinese-style egg noodles
Vegetable oil for frying

Marinade for Chicken, Pork or Seafood
1 lb. chicken breast or thighs, pork or deveined and shelled shrimp
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. corn starch
1 tbsp. water
3 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. oyster sauce
3 tbsp. sherry or rice wine
1/2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tbsp. white or black pepper

Sauce
2 tbsp. corn starch
2 tbsp. sherry or rice wine
3 cups chicken stock (or dissolve crushed chicken bouillon cubes in water)
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
3 stalks of celery, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced or chopped into 1-inch cubes
1 red or green pepper, thinly sliced or chopped into 1-inch cubes (optional)
1 can bamboo shoots (optional)
1 can whole baby corn, sliced in half (optional)
8 green onions, chopped
1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
Pickled jalapeños (optional)

Method:

Mix ingredients for marinade together and refrigerate for one hour, and fry noodles.

Separate noodles into small portions. Each 16-ounce package will probably produce about eight small piles of noodles. It’s easiest if you pull them apart with your hands. Don’t cut them — it’s bad luck, which is why the yellow egg noodles are often called Chinese long-life noodles (the longer the noodles you eat, the longer you’ll live!). Clean your wok.

Heat 3 to 4 inches of oil in a wok over medium-high heat to about 375 degrees. Put one noodle in the oil; if it puffs up and floats to the top right away, the oil is hot enough for frying. Using your hands or a Chinese spider strainer, carefully drop a portion of noodles into the hot oil. They’ll spread out a bit but should stay in a rounded pile. Fry until the noodles are golden brown; about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.

Combine first six ingredients on the sauce ingredient list and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over high heat. Add ginger and garlic and stir fry until fragrant (be sure to keep an eye on the wok to ensure they don’t burn). Add marinated chicken or pork and stir fry until no longer pink. Add vegetables to your wok and stir fry for about three to five minutes. Add the mix you set aside and stir fry until the sauce boils and thickens. If you’re using shrimp or other seafood (calamari or scallops), stir fry the vegetables for three to five minutes and the seafood last to avoid overcooking. The sauce should be the consistency of thin gravy — add some water, if it’s too thick. Be sure to taste; and don’t hesitate to add more soy sauce, if it’s not salty enough for your tastebuds.

Arrange fried noodles on a plate and top with sauce; garnish with green onions and cilantro and serve with pickled jalapeños. Store sauce separately from noodles.

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Photo credits: View Baiphowongse.

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