Why It Works
- Soaking the pork in a baking soda solution creates a tender and moist texture.
- Stir-frying in batches ensures good browning, not steaming.
Preparing a stir-fry for dinner gives us food that checks off two boxes: It's delicious, and it's fast. This pork lo mein delivers on both points, plus it's loaded with noodles, meat, and plenty of vegetables—a complete meal in one wok.
We like using inexpensive country-style boneless pork ribs for this, cutting them down into small strips. Cutting everything small is important in a stir-fry, because you want it all to cook through quickly. You can also use boneless loin chops here, although we recommend sticking with the rib cut if you can find it, since it's got more marbling and is therefore more flavorful.
To make sure the pork stays nice and tender, even when smacked with the high heat of a wok, we first soak it for 15 minutes in a baking soda solution. This is a trick we picked up from Cook's Illustrated, and, having tested it side by side with unsoaked pork, we can confirm it makes a huge difference. Thanks to the alkalizing effects of the baking soda, the pork retains more moisture and tenderness, even as it browns and crisps on its exterior—an important step for building flavor, but one that can toughen up the meat at the same time.
For the vegetables, we choose a colorful array of add-ins, including thinly shredded purple cabbage, bright green Chinese broccoli (though you can substitute Napa cabbage), and thin strips of julienned carrot. Garlic, ginger, and scallions, meanwhile, add aromatic depth, if not much color.
The challenge with stir-frying at home is that most home ranges don't have a powerful enough burner to stir-fry in big batches, like restaurants do. The solution is to break the stir-fry into stages, which avoids overcrowding the pan. We start by searing the vegetables in smoking-hot oil, then transfer them to a plate—they should be singed here and there, while still retaining a fresh bite.
Next, we add the pork to the wok, browning it in a fresh dose of smoking oil. As soon as it's taken on a bit of color in spots and cooked through, we scrape it out of the wok, then repeat with the noodles (which we've boiled in advance). The noodles should get nice and hot as you toss and stir them, and should also take on a little color of their own. This all translates to deeper flavor.
To finish off the stir-fry, we add the vegetables and pork back to the wok along with the noodles, and toss it all together with a flavorful sauce made from soy and oyster sauces, rice wine, and Chinese black vinegar. There's just enough cornstarch in the sauce to help it thicken up and coat everything in a very light glaze.
We like serving this with some sambal oelek (chili garlic sauce) at the table. That way, anyone who wants a punch of heat can stir some in. All in all, this dish comes together in a little more than half an hour, making it perfect for that weeknight when you don't want to hang around in the kitchen more than you have to. Fresh, tasty, colorful, and balanced lo mein—no delivery required.
1 pound (450g) fresh lo mein noodles
1 pound (450g) country-style boneless pork ribs or boneless pork loin chops
1 teaspoon (3g) baking soda
3 tablespoons (40g) sugar
3 tablespoons (45ml) soy sauce
3 tablespoons (45ml) oyster sauce
2 tablespoons (30ml) Chinese black or balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon (15ml) toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons (30ml) Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon (15ml) Asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon (15g) cornstarch
3 tablespoons (45ml) neutral oil, such as grapeseed, peanut, or canola, divided
1 (3-inch) knob fresh ginger, peeled and minced (about 2 tablespoons; 12g)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
4 scallions, white parts cut in 1-inch pieces, light green parts very thinly sliced; divided
1 1/2 cups shredded cored purple cabbage (5 ounces; 150g)
1 1/2 cups shredded Chinese broccoli or cored Napa cabbage (5 ounces; 150g)
1 cup julienned carrots (2 1/2 ounces; 75g)
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
Sambal oelek (chili paste), for serving (optional)
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook noodles according to package directions, stirring regularly with tongs or long chopsticks, until al dente and separated. Drain noodles and set aside.
Trim pork of excess fat and cut into thin strips, about 1/4 inch wide by 2 inches long. In a bowl, stir together baking soda and 1/2 cup cold water. Add pork, stir until thoroughly coated, then let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, soy sauce, oyster sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, wine, fish sauce, and cornstarch until sugar is dissolved. Set sauce aside.
Drain pork well, rinse with cold water, then pat dry with paper towels. Add pork back to rinsed and dried bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons (15ml) of the sauce and mix well.
In a wok or large cast iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon (15ml) neutral oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add ginger, garlic, and white scallion pieces and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Increase heat to high and add purple cabbage, Chinese broccoli (or Napa cabbage), and carrots. Cook, stirring and tossing, until vegetables are charred in spots and just softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Add 1 tablespoon (15ml) neutral oil to wok or skillet and heat over high heat until smoking. Add pork, spreading it out in a single layer, and let cook on one side until crisp and brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring and tossing, until just cooked through, about 1 minute longer. Transfer to plate with vegetables.
Wipe out wok or skillet, then add remaining 1 tablespoon (15ml) neutral oil and heat over high heat until smoking. Add noodles and cook, tossing and stirring, until hot.
Add remaining sauce, vegetables, and pork to noodles and toss well over heat to combine. Transfer lo mein to a platter and sprinkle sliced green scallions all over, along with sesame seeds, if using. Serve right away, passing sambal oelek at the table if desired.
Wok or large cast iron pan
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 31g||39%|
|Saturated Fat 7g||33%|
|Total Carbohydrate 52g||19%|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||11%|
|Total Sugars 13g|
|Vitamin C 28mg||139%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|