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!
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
Literally 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.
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?
Looking for more noodle recipes?