Chow Mein Vs. Lo Mein: Chinese Cuisine For Beginners

Chow Mein vs. Lo Mein – learn all there is to about these delicious traditional Chinese dishes. You’ll learn how they are prepared and how healthy they are for you too!

Chow Mein vs Lo Mein

I believe that the majority of us cannot resist ordering Chinese takeout. I take satisfaction in knowing how to prepare and serve Chinese food since I know how much I adore it. I am aware that many individuals frequently become perplexed while reading a menu at a Chinese restaurant, particularly if there are no explanations or ingredients lists provided.

For instance, Chow Mein and Lo Mein are two extremely well-liked Chinese cuisines in the United States, but how many of you could tell me how they vary from one another?

I assume that most of you scowled. But do not be concerned. These foods share quite a few characteristics than just having identical names, which is not at all unusual. For starters, they are both meals using egg noodles made from wheat.

Read the in-depth comparison of Chow Mein vs. Lo Mein below if you want to learn more about Chinese food. The next time you visit a Chinese restaurant, you’ll be one step closer to ordering Chinese food with assurance!

Let’s start by defining these two wonderfully flavorful meals.

What is Lo Mein?

Lo Mein is a traditional Chinese egg-enhanced wheat noodle dish. It is made with round, thick and dense noodles that resemble spaghetti.

“Lo” means tossed in Chinese, which tells us a lot about the preparation method of this dish. “Mein” translates to noodles, and thus we now know that Lo Mein means tossed noodles.

How exactly is Lo Mein prepared?

  • You cannot merely toss some noodles around, and voila, you’re done! You first need to cook the noodles. This means you have to boil them until they become soft and then drain them well.
  • In the meantime, you should get a wok and cook some veggies and sauce (you can add meat too). Here comes the tossing part: you add the noodles to the wok and toss them lightly until they soak up the sauce and mix with the veggies.

The sauce should be light and not too greasy as this dish is already pretty calorie-packed.

Further Reading: The Most Recommended Woks

What is Chow Mein?

Chow mein is, as we already learned, a traditional Chinese egg-noodle dish often served in Chinese restaurants across the USA. It is one of my favorite Chinese dishes as well, as I adore crispy things!

“Chow” in English means frying, and we already know that “mein” translates as noodles.

Therefore, we can safely assume that Chow Mein noodles are prepared by stir-frying. The noodles can be fresh or dry, it depends on the restaurant you choose, but they are always stir-fried until they turn crispy and then added to vegetables.

They are by definition served with hot mustard and red sauce, while the meat is once again optional.

There are actually two variations of Chow Mein. My favorite crisp Chow Mein and steamed Chow Mein. When preparing the crisp Chow Mein, the noodles get pressed flat while fried, and thus they turn out flat like pancakes and heavenly crispy! Steamed Chow Mein is prepared a bit differently – noodles are tossed while fried and then coated in the sauce.

  • The noodles can be boiled first and then fried in deep oil without any other additions. You always add veggies and sauces after the initial frying! It is also imperative not to overdo it with the sauce as that would make the noodles soggy and ruin the entire point!
  • When it comes to the Chow Mein, the noodles are the star of the show, so keep all the additions to the minimum. Real deal Chow Mein consists of oily and crispy noodles with a few veggies, sometimes some meat, and a thick, dark sauce.

Related article: Learn The Recipe For Chinese White Sauce

Traditional Chinese name Origin Translation Shape Texture Made from… Cooking method Common Additions

Lo Mein (Mian)

Northern China Tossed noodles Rounded (like thick spaghetti) Soft Eggs, wheat flour Fresh noodles are boiled and then tossed Beef, chicken, shrimp.Veggies.A lot of soy-based or oyster sauce.

Chow Mein (Mian)

Northern China Stir-fried noodles Flat or rounded Crispy Eggs, wheat flour Fresh, dried, or boiled noodles are stir-fried. Beef, chicken, shrimp.Veggies.Soy-based sauce

Nutrition Facts

  • In order to prepare either of these two Chinese specialties, you have to start with noodles. You will use less than the same noodles no matter what dish you are cooking, and therefore the calorie count will be the same: about 240 calories per serving.
  • One hundred twenty-five of these calories come from fat, as there are 13.8 grams of fat. Moreover, there are 25.9 grams of carbohydrates and 198 milligrams of sodium, which make this dish unsuitable for both those on low sodium and low-calorie diet.
  • If you have to choose between the two, health-wise, Lo Mein would be a better choice. Why? Well, it is due to the preparation process. Namely, Cho Mein noodles are fried and thus soak up oil, which makes their fat content higher than that of Lo Mein noodles.
  • On the other hand, Lo Mein has more sauce, and, as you probably already know, soy-based sauces are notorious for their high sodium level. As a result, Lo Mein noodles are higher in sodium and not suitable for those who suffer from high blood pressure or cardiovascular diseases.

Related – Chopsticks – Reviews 2022: Top 5+ Recommended

What Is There Besides the Noodles?

1. Chow Mein

  • When preparing the Chow Mein dish, cooks usually include meat such as chicken, beef, or shrimp. As far as the vegetables are concerned, most of the time, crunchy veggies such as celery and carrots are used, but cabbage and mung bean sprouts are often included as well. Onions are a common ingredient in many Chow Mein recipes too. It is not uncommon for the cooks to fry the egg noodles on a patty and serve the stir-fried veggies and meat over it. Soy-based sauces are the most common choice.

2. Lo Mein

  • Lo Mein dish can be prepared in many different ways, but the ingredients are very much alike to that used to prepare Chow Mein. You can include meat such as beef, chicken, and shrimp. Cabbage and bok choy are the most commonly used veggies used to make this flavorful dish. The sauce can be either soy-based or oyster sauce- whichever you choose, do not be thrifty as this dish requires a lot of it.

Why Should You Eat Both Lo Mein And Chow Mein?

Besides the great taste of both these dishes, there is one more reason to eat Chinese noodles as often as you can. Are you curious to find out what it is?

  • It is widely believed all across China that eating noodles can bring you good luck. Therefore, noodles always have their special place in the celebration of the Lunar New Year. This traditional dish is deemed perfect for starting the new year as noodles symbolize longevity in life. Hence, make sure that you cook noodles on New year’s eve too, there is nothing to lose, and you can gain years if these beliefs are. Just remember to leave the noodles long, do not cut them! 😉


As you could see while reading this article, chow mein and lo mein are very similar, but the big difference that sets them apart lies in the method used to make these noodle dishes. It is therefore on you to decide: Will it be Lo Mein or Chow Mein the next time you visit a Chinese restaurant?

If you like soft noodles soaked in sauce, opt for Lo Mein. If you are anything like me and prefer the crispy texture, order Chow Mein, and you won’t go wrong!

In fact, you will not go wrong with whatever choice you make – both dishes are tasty and colorful.

Do not eat them too often though, as they are not the healthiest choice you can make – they both have high sodium levels due to the sauces used to prepare them. Depending on the ingredients used, they can have a whopping 1,000 calories per serving too, plus high fat and carb content.

Enjoy them on special occasions that will make these dishes special also – and do not forget New Year is a must!

If you liked this, you would also like to understand the difference between Chow Mein vs. Chop Suey.

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