Chinese Noodles 101: How to Make Chow Mein With Four Vegetables
From crispy pan-fried noodles to a bowl of wonton noodle soup, fresh Chinese egg noodles are one of the most common noodles you'll find at Chinese restaurants. Just like Italian pasta or ramen, when cooked properly, they should have a firm bite and springy texture, and the wide variation in thickness and springiness makes Chinese egg noodles some of the most versatile to cook with. All week we'll be talking about the various types of noodles you might find at a good Chinese market and how to cook them. Check out the whole series here.
For me, a dim sum brunch isn't complete without a plate of Supreme Soy Sauce Chow Mein. A simple dish of stir-fried thin noodles cooked with bean sprouts and scallions, it's dry-fried, which means that it's cooked mostly in oil, with just a thin coating of a soy-based sauce added to it at the end and cooked until it coats the noodles in a concentrated layer of flavor,
Just like the other dim sum classic of crispy pan fried noodles in sauce, this dish is made with thin egg noodles, which are very similar in shape and texture to wonton noodles. Also labeled Hong Kong-Style noodles, they usually come par-boiled, carefully drained, and ready to stir-fry. (You could make this dish with wonton noodles, if you were willing to par-cook and very carefully dry them beforehand).
My version of the dim sum classic uses the same noodles, bean sprouts, and scallions, but I also add finely julienned carrots, Chinese chives, and sliced five-spice tofu.
Preparing the vegetables is the most time-consuming part of the dish, but the even cooking and gorgeous presentation in the end are worth it. I even like to pick the ends off the bean sprouts, though you can leave them on if you'd like.
As with all stir-fries, it's important to get your oil very hot and to cook your ingredients in the right order and in batches so that your wok has time to reheat between ingredients. (Read up more about stir-frying basics here.) In this case, that means starting with the tofu and frying it until lightly browned, then adding a splash of soy sauce (which gets absorbed quickly), then the chives, cooked just until barely wilted. The vegetables come out and get set aside.
Next, more oil gets heated, then the noodles are added. Because Hong Kong noodles are already par-cooked and dry, they cook very rapidly and stay loose and separated. When stir-frying noodles, set aside the spatula and stick with tongs or chopstick to help you maneuver the noodles without crushing or breaking them.
I like to let them get a little bit crispy before adding a sauce made with soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, sugar, and white pepper. The sauce is cooked down until it coats the noodles completely, with no liquid left in the bottom of the wok. Make sure to keep the noodles moving constantly once you add the sauce. You don't want them to clump!
We're almost done now. Next, the bean sprouts go in and cook until barely tender...
...followed by the carrots and the scallions...
...and finally the tofu and chives.
Serve it all straight away so the vegetables are still bright and crunchy and the noodles are still firm. I like to serve it with chili oil and hot sauce on the side.