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Chinese Noodles 101: How to Make Lo Mein With Beef and Broccoli

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[Photographs: Shao Z.]

From crispy pan-fried noodles to a bowl of wonton noodle soup, fresh Chinese egg noodles are a staple of 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 best to cook them. Check out the whole series here.

Beef and broccoli might only be a classic combination in the American Chinese repertoire, but that doesn't make it any less delicious. In most restaurants, you'll find it served with rice, but I like to stir-fry it with hearty lo mein noodles.

The thickest variety of egg noodle, lo mein is great for stir-fried dishes with with hearty flavors and rich sauces. Because the noodles are thick and dense, they're never as springy or bouncy as thinner noodles, which can be a good thing if you plan on making this dish ahead: lo mein's biggest advantage is that it holds up well to time, making it the perfect option for a buffet, a potluck, or when traveling.

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The recipe starts with marinating beef in my basic meat marinade, which includes soy sauce, corn starch, Shaoxing wine, sugar, salt, and sesame oil. It's designed to help improve browning and bring out the meaty flavors of the beef.

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While the beef marinates in the fridge, I par-cook my noodles. All egg noodles should be par-boiled in water before stir-frying (though be careful, some brands sell their noodles pre-boiled and ready-to-fry). Lo mein noodles take about 3 minutes. After they're cooked, I briefly run them under cold water to chill them rapidly.

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When they're ready to cook, I start with the beef, stir-frying it in a couple tablespoons of smoking hot vegetable oil just until it's browned all over and mostly cooked. Then I remove it to a separate bowl to let my wok re-heat for the broccoli.

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You can stir-fry the broccoli in just oil, but I like to add a little bit of water so that the broccoli steams and turns bright green. A couple minutes and it can join the beef in the bowl.

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Finally, I stir-fry the noodles, making sure to get the wok hot again. You can use a spatula to stir-fry, but chopsticks will work better, allowing you to separate any clumps of noodles that stick together without breaking them. Once the noodles are hot, I add a simple sauce made of sesame oil, soy sauce, oyster sauce, salt, sugar, and wine, before tossing all the ingredients back in together.

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Give it a few more tosses, and it's ready to serve. Chewy, al dente noodles in a rich sweet-and-savory sauce, along with tender marinated slices of beef and bright green broccoli florets. So much better than take out!

About the Author: Shao Z. was born in Guangzhou, the birthplace of dim sum, and raised in the Chinatown neighborhood of Philadelphia. As a sibling-less child, cooking was a way to cure after school snack attacks and a way to keep herself entertained. That's how her love for food and cooking started, and it continues to grow. She blog at friedwontons4u.com and is on Twitter at @friedwontons4u.

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