Chow Mein vs. Lo Mein
Chow Mein and Lo Mein are two popular oriental dishes that are enjoyed by people all around the world. Both Chow Mein and Lo Mein originated from China and have gained popularity here in the United States.
The word “mein” means noodles, so any dish you order with “mein” in the title or description will always come with noodles.
“Lo” means “stirred” or “tossed”, and “Chow” means “stir-fried”. The texture of the noodles used in each dish is how we tell the difference between the two.
Even though both dishes are very popular, many people get the two mixed up. Since Chow Mein noodles are traditionally crispy and Lo Mein noodles are softer, people often think the difference is the type of noodle used.
Fun fact: both dishes use the exact same kind of noodle! Both Chow Mein and Lo Mein use a wheat-based egg noodle. The real difference between these two dishes is how the egg noodles are prepared.
Chow Mein dishes can use either fresh or dried egg noodles. If you are making Chow Mein, you will often stir fry your noodles separately and add the rest of the ingredients afterwards.
Even though most Chinese-American Chow Mein dishes use crispy noodles, some restaurants will spend less time frying their egg noodles to achieve a more authentic texture.
More traditional Chow Mein dishes have softer noodles. Less time in the fryer means softer, less crispy noodles. If you enjoy the texture that stir-fried noodles have but you still want a soft noodle, all you need to do is adjust the time you spend frying the noodles.
Fresh egg noodles are often used for Lo Mein. Lo Mein noodles are boiled long enough to make them soft. Because Lo Mein closely resembles spaghetti in texture, you can substitute fettuccine, linguini, or even pre-packaged ramen noodles if you don’t have egg noodles! Keep in mind that you’ll want to ditch the spice packet that ramen noodles come with.
The secret to great Lo Mein comes from the sauce itself. Since Lo Mein noodles are boiled, they absorb more flavor than stir-fired egg noodles used in Chow Mein.
Which one is healthier?
There’s no real answer to this question. Since both use traditional wheat-based egg noodles, there isn’t a significant difference between the noodles themselves.
Considering all the variations of Chow Mein and Lo Mein you can create with a variety of ingredients, it all depends on what you put in each dish.
If you’re watching your sodium levels, neither dish will be very good for you. Both dishes use fish, soy, or hoisin sauces that are very high in sodium. But if you’re not worried about the salt content, then you can rest easy. It all comes down to your personal preference!
How do I decide which dish to make?
It all comes down to personal preference. Do you enjoy dishes that have a variety of textures and a little bit of crunch to them? Chow Mein is a good choice.
Are you already a fan of soft noodle dishes like ramen and spaghetti? Lo Mein it is!
Both dishes use a variety of ingredients as toppings and fillings to go with the noodles. Once you decide which type of noodle you want, think about the protein, vegetables, and sauces you want to include. Since these two dishes have been around for a few thousand years, you’re bound to find a variation that you enjoy!
Bianca is a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati. She is an Applied Behavioral Health Technician and a freelance writer. She spends her free time catching up with friends and scaling walls at indoor rock gyms.