Lo Mein vs. Chow Mein – Are They Really Different?

Last Updated on October 11, 2021 by Boniface Muriuki

Chinese dishes are gaining popularity globally. It is not unusual to find Chinese restaurants in the US. 

But Chinese dishes can be complicated! The names and the preparation techniques are diverse and unique. Some of the leading Chinese dishes are Lo Mein, Chow Mein, and Chop Suey.

This article will undertake Lo Mein vs. Chow Mein vs. Chop Suey comparison to ensure that you don’t get confused on which one to order when you visit a Chinese restaurant. 

Lo Mein vs. Chow Mein

What Is Chop Suey?

Chop Suey is an American Chinese cuisine that consists of meat and eggs cooked together with vegetables such as cabbage, celery, or bean sprouts. 

The meat may be from different sources, including chicken, shrimp, port, beef, and fish. The dish is further thickened using a sauce.

Chop Suey is served over rice. If you add stir-fried noodles to the sauce, you will form a Chinese-American variation of Chow Mein. 

Noodles Used to Make Lo Mein and Chow Mein

Both dishes use egg noodles that are prepared by using wheat flour noodles and eggs. The noodles can either be fresh or dry.

Fresh noodles are ideal for preparing Lo Mein, while Chow Mein can be made from either fresh or dried noodles. 

Before cooking, the noodles are softened by boiling. You must boil the dried ones for 5-6 minutes while the fresh ones require 2-3 minutes. 

Lo Mein vs. Chow Mein: What’s the Difference?

These two dishes use noodles as the primary ingredient. However, they differ in preparation methods, which results in Lo Mein being soft and Chow Mein being crispy.

The preparation involves the use of wheat-flour noodles. For Chow Mein, noodles are stir-fried to achieve unique crispness, while noodles for Lo Mein are boiled to softness.

What is Chow Mein?

Chow means fried, and Mein means noodles. So, Chow Mein means fried noodles. They are cooked on a flat pan or a wok to achieve a unique crispness that makes leaves an excellent taste on your mouth. 

The exact taste of Chow Mein depends on the meat and vegetables used in its preparation. It can be spicy, have lots of vegetables, or even include Tofu. 

Lo Mein vs. Chow Mein vs. Chop Suey

How to Make Chow Mein

While the name may sound complicated, the process of making Chow Mein is relatively simple. It is recommended that you first boil the noodles before frying them to get the best results. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make Chow Mein:

  • Prepare All Ingredients. It would be best to use a sharp knife to slice, chop, and marinate all your ingredients. We recommend that you have all the ingredients ready before you start the cooking.
  • Boil Your Noodles. You will be required to boil your noodles lightly. Once through, drain the water and rinse the noodles in cold water. Ensure you drain them entirely. 
  • Heat Oil in a Skillet. If you have a Lodge Cast Iron Skillet, you can use it. If not, use any other pan, preferably heavy and with a flat base. Heat the oil until it bubbles (Sesame oil recommended).
  • Place the Noodles. Place your drained noodles into the hot oil until they form a pancake-like structure. When ready to flip, place a plate over the noodles and turn them carefully. Fry them until they become crispy.
  • Add Vegetables, Protein, and Sauce. As noodles continue to cook, you should add all your other ingredients for a quick cook. 

You can stir-fry noodles and vegetables/meat separately, then combine them. Whichever method suits you best! The results will be the same. 

Types of Chow Mein 

Several types of Chow Mein exist depending on the type of proteins and vegetables used in the preparation. The main types include :

  • Chicken Chow Mein 
  • Beef Chow Mein
  • Pork Chow Mein 
  • Vegetable Chow Mein

The nutritional value of each type of Chow Mein depends on the ingredients you use. While vegetable Chow Mein is rich in vitamins, it may lack adequate protein levels.

To achieve a balanced diet, you may be required to mix protein sources and vegetables to get a more nutritious Chow Mein. Overall, noodles are rich in carbohydrates and gluten. 

What is Lo Mein?

Unlike Chow Mein, Lo Mein is not stir-fried. Instead, the noodles are boiled to become soft and palatable. 

After the boiling is complete, toss them together with your vegetables, sauce, and protein to form a delicious Lo Mein. Some chefs may recommend the addition of peanut butter.

Lo Mein is available for vegetarians. The vegan recipe excludes any form of meat. However, you should note that Lo Mein is rich in salt and carbs. As such, it may not be ideal for individuals trying to lose weight. 

How to Prepare Lo Mein

Preparing Lo Mein is more painless than preparing Chow Mein. In this case, you will not be required to stir-fry the noodles.

Instead, you will follow these simple steps:

  • Prepare Your Vegetables. This should ALWAYS be the first step. Please do not start with boiling the noodles since they cool pretty fast. Use an over-the-sink cutting board to ensure that you clean and drain your vegetables adequately. 
  • Prepare Your Sauce. Which sauce would you like to use? Prepare your favorite sauce early enough. Also, make sure that your preferred source of protein is ready. 
  • Boil the water. Place your stock pot on the stovetop and add enough water and a pinch of salt. Add your noodles and let them cook.
  • Heat the Oil and Stir-Fry Your Vegetables. We recommend the use of organic oils such as olive, canola, and avocado oils. 
  • Toss them and Serve. When both the noodles and the vegetables/proteins are ready, you should toss them together and serve.

Types of Lo Mein

Just like Chow Mein, Lo Mein is primarily classified based on the ingredients used. Some of the most common Lo Meins include:

  • Chicken Lo Mein
  • Beef Lo Mein. Ensure you marinate the beef with honey, ginger, or any other spices before slicing it. (use a meat slicer for home use).
  • Shrimp Lo Mein. Ensure that you don’t expose your shrimp to high heat lest it becomes chewy and tough.
  • Pork Lo Mein
  • Vegetable Lo Mein

Lo Mein is high in carbs and salts. The calories increase if you use a sauce made of oil-rich ingredients such as peanut butter. As such, you should avoid using oily sauces if you need a low-calorie diet. 

What is the difference between Chow Mein and Lo Mein

Lo Mein vs. Chow Mein – What Exactly is the Difference 

The primary difference between the two dishes is in the prep method. Chow Mein’s noodles are stir-fried, which gives them a relatively crispy feel.

On the other hand, Lo Mein’s noodles are boiled. As such, they are relatively soft. 

Additionally, Lo Mein noodles and veggies/proteins are tossed together after being prepared separately. For the Chow Mein, the veggies/proteins are added to the stir-fried noodles to continue cooking together.

The two dishes have almost similar nutritional values. The nutrient constituents largely depend on the ingredients used in the preparation process. 


Lo Mein vs. Chow Mein – FAQs 

  1. Which is healthier between Chow Mein and Lo Mein?

    Both dishes use noodles, which are high in carbs and calories. How healthy they are will depend on the ingredients used. For example, a dish with more noodles and fewer vegetables will have more carbs than more vegetables and fewer noodles. 

  2. What is in Chop Suey

    Chop Suey is an American Chinese cuisine that consists of meat and eggs cooked together with vegetables such as cabbage, celery, or bean sprouts. 

  3. Is Chow Mein really Chinese?

    Yes, Ch’ao Mein is a Mandarin term meaning stir-fried noodles. It originated from Northern China before spreading to American Chinese restaurants and other regions of the world.

  4. Why is Chop Suey so popular?

    Chop Suey and Chow Mein were primary dishes during World War 2. The veterans who had enjoyed the dishes created the demand for it in their respective countries. 

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