Food - Drink
Lo Mein Vs. Chow Mein: What's The Difference?
By NIKITA EPHANOV
Chow mein and lo mein are beloved dishes in the American-Chinese culinary canon, and while these noodle-centric recipes look and sound the same, they have quite a lot of differences in their history, the ingredients, and cooking techniques. To begin with, lo mein actually has a longer history than chow mein, starting in the Han Dynasty.
Lo mein is made with long, thin noodles that link the dish to a historic change in Chinese noodle-making about 2,000 years ago. Meanwhile, the first versions of chow mein originated during the later Song Dynasty, but the dish only spiked in popularity during the first wave of American-Chinese cuisine, from the 1920s onwards.
As for preparation, chow mein means stir-fried noodles, while lo mein means "stirred." Chow mein crisps up the noodles and other ingredients at high heat, generating more "wok hei," or smoky flavor; meanwhile, vegetables and noodles are cooked separately in lo mein, with a large amount of sauce added that requires lots of stirring.
While both dishes use egg-based noodles, chow mein uses either flat or rounded noodles that are thin and dry, but lo mein utilizes fresh, chewy, thick, rounded noodles that are excellent for soaking up sauce. Fresh lo mein noodles only take a few minutes to cook in water, while chow mein noodles usually need to boil for up to 5-6 minutes.