30-Minute Chicken Chow Mein

Why order takeout when you can make fresh chow mein at home? This dish is ready in 30 minutes—way less time than actual delivery!

30 Minute Chicken Chow Mein | healthynibblesandbits.com

I’ve eaten chow mein my whole life, yet I have no clue where this dish came from. Alright, I know it’s from China, you smarty pants. But where? Do you know? These are the perplexing questions that I lean on the world wide web for help. A few interesting things I found:

  1. My “chow mein origins” search generated a surprising amount of “chop suey” hits. Chow mein, chop suey—two very different things. They may have been cooked from the same wok, but two very different things.
  2. I found a recipe for “African chow mein.” The thing that made the chow mein “African” was the presence of hamburger meat and the absence of actual noodles. Go figure.
  3. Apparently, the word “chow mein” is somehow derived from the Taishanese pronunciation of the dish. (Holla! Those be my people!)

Alas, no one actually knows where chow mein came from. Maybe I should write a book about this one day.

30 Minute Chicken Chow Mein | healthynibblesandbits.com

But before I get on that journey, however, there was another mystery to solve. What exactly is the brown sauce that restaurants use in their chow mein? My guess is that it’s combination of soy sauce, sugar, and a lot of MSG. I definitely don’t have it figured out though. I scavenged my Chinese supermarket in search of this secret sauce, and this was the closest thing I found:

Sweet Bean PasteLiterally translated, this is a sweet noodle sauce, which sounded exactly like what I was looking for. As it turns out, it’s the sauce that goes with Peking duck! So, not quite what I was looking for, but it added some good flavor when mixed with noodles (most likely with the assistance of MSG). If you like the taste of the Peking duck sauce, and you can actually find this at the supermarket, great! Grab yourself a small jar and run with it. If you can’t find this, MSG-free oyster sauce is a good substitute. I’m going to show you how to rock it with the oyster sauce.

30 Minute Chicken Chow Mein | healthynibblesandbits.com

This dish took under 30 minutes to make, which, coincidentally, is less time it usually takes for Chinese delivery to arrive to my house. So, why buy, when you can make it yourself?


30-Minute Chicken Chow Mein

30 Minute Chicken Chow Mein | healthynibblesandbits.com

Serves 5

  • Author: Lisa Lin
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: dinner, lunch


  • 1 10-ounce (285g) package of fresh egg noodles (dried egg noodles work too)
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 1 lb (450g) chicken breast, chopped
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large red pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 8 oz (225g) Chinese broccoli (gai lan), roughly chopped
  • 2 TBS MSG-free oyster sauce
  • 1 TBS low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 green onion, roughly chopped
  • salt


  1. In a small pot, bring about a quart of water to boil. Once the water boils, drop in the noodles and cook for 7 to 8 minutes. Drain the water and rinse the noodles under cold water.
  2. Heat a saute pan with 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil. Saute the chicken breasts until they are fully cooked (about 6 to 8 minutes). Season with a tiny pinch of salt, and turn off the heat.
  3. In a large saute pan or wok, heat the remaining oil. Once the pan is hot, add the onions, and let it cook for about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, pepper, and Chinese broccoli, and cook the vegetables for about 5 minutes, until fully cooked. Add the cooked noodles and chicken, and stir everything together. I find it easiest to use two spatulas and mix everything like you are tossing a salad. Add the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, and green onion, and mix again. Turn off the heat.
  4. Serve immediately.

30 Minute Chicken Chow Mein | healthynibblesandbits.com

Looking for more noodle recipes?

Udon Bowl with Slow Cooker Pork

Udon Bowl with Five-Spice Slow Cooker Pork

Vegetable Stir Fry Mung Bean Noodles | healthynibblesandbits.com

Vegetable Stir Fry Mung Bean Noodles

38 thoughts on “30-Minute Chicken Chow Mein

    1. Lisa Post author

      How about I make you a batch of this, and you make me some of your gorgeous chocolate chip brownies??

    1. Lisa Post author

      Thanks, Liz! My weekend was great! Well, except when I found out that every one and their mother was going out for St. Patty’s Day bar crawl last Saturday! That totally derailed my plans to drink with my friends at a beer garden.

  1. Alisa @ Go Dairy Free

    I’ll admit that before I read a couple of books about China and I had a friend from there, I had no idea how vast the country was and how there were so many different “food regions”. It’s actually a cool topic – you could definitely write a book on it! This chow mein looks amazing, definitely pinning!

    1. Lisa Post author

      Yes, the food is so distinct depending on where you go! I could use any excuse to go back to China to eat some good food!

  2. Bam's Kitchen

    Stunning photos Lisa!!! I love a quick noodle dish for my boys too. Living here in HK i am sure I can get that sauce as well but I hear you it is probably full of MSG so have to look for some alternatives. Sharing of course!!!

  3. Tina Muir

    Oh this sounds amazing!!!! I LOVE chow mien, and I miss it from when I used to have it in england. I never had a recipe before….now I do 🙂 Time to try it!

  4. Maggie

    Very interesting idea to use tianmianjiang in the chow mein and good to know that you can find it in supermarket easily! Although it’s a sauce for Peking duck, we use it as dipping sauce or cook with stir-fry too. Thanks for bringing up this ingredient. I’m gonna make some experiment with it this weekend 🙂

  5. Pingback: Vegetarian Carrot Top Pesto Pizza - Spoonful of Flavor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *