Pan Fried Noodles: A Recipe You'll Love
There are few things more comforting in this world than a lovely plate of warm noodles with delicious veggies and meats. They’re not only tasty and filling, but they’re also sentimental and taste just like home.
One of the most classic Asian noodle dishes is pan-fried noodles, or chow mein. It’s a savory dish with crispy noodles and vegetables. But believe it or not, you can easily make it right in the comfort of your own kitchen.
Today, we’re going to walk through the details of pan fried noodles. By the end of this article, you’ll have everything you need to know to do this dish right. This recipe is sure to bring that restaurant flavor home.
What Is the Difference Between Tossed Noodles (Lo Mein) and Pan Fried Noodles (Chow Mein)?
Before we get started, we must distinguish pan fried noodles from another popular dish. The terms “chow mein” and “lo mein” are used interchangeably, but the two have distinct differences.
Let’s start with chow mein.
Chow mein is stir-fried or pan-fried noodles. The noodles are the true star of the dish. The sauce is used sparingly, and any extra protein or vegetable ingredients are kept to a minimum, so they do not distract from the crunchy noodles.
Lo mein, on the other hand, refers to tossed noodles. You cook the noodles in the water, stir-frying your veggies and meat separately. Once everything is cooked, you toss the ingredients together in a savory sauce. Lo mein noodles also tend to be thicker and chewier.
What Ingredients Are Needed For Pan Fried Noodles?
You don’t need that many ingredients for pan fried noodles. In fact, if you cook Asian food a lot, you probably have most of the necessary ingredients already on hand.
There are a bunch of different kinds of noodles that you can use for chow mein, so pick whichever style is your favorite, or try something new!
The most commonly used noodle variety for chow mein is Hong Kong-style noodles. They’re a thinner type of egg noodles that are specifically designed for chow mein and stir-frying.
If you can’t find them, use dried thin wonton soup noodles, fine egg noodles, or Chinese egg noodles.
Egg noodles, in general, do very well with chow mein. Finishing cooking them in the pan will deliver a crisp texture that compliments the protein and veggies in the dish.
Add Vegetables of Your Choice
Next, the goal is to make a dish you’ll enjoy, so use your favorite ingredients. With chow mein, this dish commonly uses carrots, green onions, and bean sprouts, but you’re welcome to use other vegetables too! Here are some of our favorite veggie add-ons.
- Snow peas
All of these are welcome guests in your chow mein dish! Vegetables help bring various flavors to your meal. You’re also welcome to add protein, like pork, chicken, and shrimp. These options work really well for a pan-fried noodle dish.
Garlic and Sesame Seeds
Next, you’ll need some garlic and sesame seeds. Few meals are complete without one or two cloves of garlic. The sweetness and acidity are delicious in chow mein.
And sesame seeds serve as a great garnish to your dish, but they also bring some nice toasty undertones to the finished product. These two ingredients are essential ingredients that can help to make your chow mein delicious.
Hoisin Sauce, Soy Sauce, and Sesame Oil
Chow mein is a dry dish, so you won’t need to soak up your noodles with these sauces. When stir-frying your veggies, it’s important to add these ingredients to bring some umami into your pan fried noodles.
Hoisin brings a savory, salty, smoky sweetness to your dish, while soy sauce gives a salty umami punch, and sesame oil has a toasty yet subtle, unifying flavor.
You’ll need cooking oil so that you can stir fry everything properly. The oil cooks your vegetables and keeps them from sticking to the pan, and it will also finish cooking your noodles.
For this application, vegetable oil is a great choice. It has a high smoke point, so it won’t burn with the high heat that is used for stir-frying. In addition, it is a neutral oil, meaning that it won’t change the flavor of the dish.
Oils like olive oil or coconut oil would disrupt the unity of the flavors, so go with vegetable, canola, or even avocado oil to keep the true flavors of the dish.
Again, pan fried noodles are on the dryer side of noodle dishes, meaning that the noodles, veggies, and meats aren’t slathered in a rich sauce. Instead, the sauce offers a thin layer that is absorbed by ingredients without overpowering them. Cornstarch will thicken the sauce without overwhelming the dish.
How Do I Make Pan Fried Noodles?
Now that we have all of our ingredients together, it’s time to get to work and whip up our chow mein. This recipe is super easy and can be prepared fairly quickly.
Did we mention that pan fried noodles are a great option for dinner on a busy weeknight?
Cook Vegetables in Oil Until Tender
To begin, we need to cook the vegetables. It’s best if you have a wok for this step, but any large skillet will do. Add about two tablespoons of cooking oil to your pan.
After your pan is oiled and heated, add in your garlic. Cook the garlic until it is fragrant for about one minute. Then add the rest of your vegetables in, stirring frequently. Sauté your vegetables until tender.
Remove the Veggies and Cover
After your vegetables are fully cooked, remove them from the pan and place them aside. You will want the vegetables to stay warm, so it’s important to keep them covered after removing them from the pan.
Place Noodles Into the Pot and Cook Until Crisp
Now, onto the noodles. Here, the most important thing is to follow the instructions on the package of your noodles.
Some noodles are pre-cooked and ready to go. If you buy the pre-cooked version, you’re ready to place the noodles directly in the pan.
If you have dry noodles, you’ll need to cook them first. Place your noodles in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes until al dente. Be sure to keep them slightly undercooked as they will finish the cooking process in the pan, giving them that classic chow mein texture.
Once your noodles are ready, add them to your hot pan and saute until the noodles are crisp. Don’t be afraid to add another teaspoon of oil.
Just make sure there is just enough oil to cook your noodles further and give them a nice crispiness on the outside.
Add Your Vegetables Back Into the Mix
After your noodles are almost cooked, it’s time to put your vegetables back in the pan. Toss all the ingredients together and get the veggies back to temperature with the noodles.
Make Your Sauce
Combine the ingredients for the sauce. Mix 1 tbsp of hoisin sauce, ⅓ cup of low-sodium soy sauce, and 2 tbsp of sesame oil to make a great savory sauce, filled with umami.
If your sauce is a little runny, make a cornstarch slurry with one tablespoon of cornstarch and two tablespoons of water. Slowly add the slurry while mixing the sauce until you’ve achieved your desired consistency.
If you’re on a time crunch and you’ve made your sauce ahead of time, quickly add it to the mix right after you’ve added the veggies back to the pan.
Add Sauce and Continue Stir-Frying
Now, add your sauce to the mix of vegetables and noodles. Ensure the heat is on, and your noodles are more than halfway cooked. Stir fry all the ingredients together, allowing your sauce to get onto every noodle and vegetable for jam-packed flavor.
Garnish With Sesame Seeds and Enjoy
Once the noodles are ready, remove the pan from the heat and serve. Garnish with sesame seeds and green onions. You can also add scallions or nori seasoning for a great contrast in color.
How Do I Know When the Noodles Are Done?
Your noodles are done when they have a light crispiness on the outside and are soft and fully cooked on the inside. If you’re unsure, sneak in a little bite as you go along to check the progress.
The crispiness should be light and delicate, and the noodle should not feel hard in the middle or so soft that it’s falling apart.
What Do I Do If My Pan Fried Noodles Are Sticky?
When making pan-fried noodles, one common factor is that the noodles get too dry and become very sticky. This can happen when the noodles get overcooked or there isn’t enough sauce.
Another common problem is that you didn’t prepare your noodles correctly. If your noodles turn out sticky, reevaluate your noodle prep. If you get to the end and your noodles are a bit sticky, simply add a bit of extra oil to help loosen the noodles.
How Can I Prevent This From Happening?
During the cooking process, make sure your noodles cook in plenty of water. This will help with heat retention and ensure your noodles don’t get too starchy.
To keep your noodles from getting sticky, you just need to take a couple of extra steps in your noodle prep. First, put a little bit of oil into the pot of boiling water that you cook your noodles with. That will help keep them from sticking together while cooking.
Next, make sure that your noodles are properly drained. Excess water can make your noodles stick together in the pot. After you drain them, toss the noodles in a bit of cooking oil to keep them from sticking to each other.
Can I Add Meat to Pan Fried Noodles?
You can add meat to your pan fried noodles! Chow mein is delicious with all sorts of meat. Stir-fried dishes of all types are flexible, so you can use any sauce, veggies, and meats you prefer.
What Kind of Meat is Usually Used?
With so many varieties available, there is no specific type of meat you can use for this recipe. It’s fully customizable, based on your tastebuds!
Beef is a common ingredient used in pan fried noodles. That savory, fatty meat does well in a stir fry. Once the beef fat renders, it can add another layer of umami to the rest of the dish.
Pork is another great meat with a good amount of fat. Pork fat, in particular, seems to work its way through the whole dish, elevating the noodles' saltiness in the most appetizing way.
Chicken is an absolute noodle classic. White meat is a great, healthy protein that has its place in any dish!
Common seafood mixes include shrimp, scallops, and some veggies that cook in half the time as meat. The plump texture of shrimp works especially well with noodles, and it can develop an incredibly satisfying crispiness that heightens the dish.
Meatless Option: Tofu
Tofu is a great protein option for a meat-free alternative. Tofu absorbs marinade very well, so feel free to marinate your tofu with the sauce.
The Bottom Line
Pan fried noodles are a classic dish, and they are so easy to make in your own kitchen. With a balance of healthy carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, it is a great way to get your nutrition in, even on a busy night.
And if you’re looking for your favorite Asian ingredients, like noodles or sauces, check out Umamicart. We deliver straight to your door, so you can have quality ingredients without leaving your home!