Hey everyone, it’s Kevin here! Today I have a quick and easy recipe for chicken chow mein with a soy sauce-based sauce!
Chow mein is one of my favorite Chinese takeout dishes. It’s quite a guilty pleasure of mine and a big dismay to my parents because there are so many other delicious Chinese dishes out there. While I’ve learned to appreciate all sorts of Chinese dishes as I’ve grown up, I still love my simple fried noodles tossed with vegetables and protein with soy sauce.
What Kind of Noodles to Use?
For authentic chow mein, you should use thin egg noodles. They can be either dry or fresh (I personally think fresh ones taste better), but make sure to read the packaging! Sometimes the package will say “chow mein noodles” but there is no egg in the noodles. Instead, they’ll imitate the color by adding food coloring (I fell for this once when I was working on this recipe). If you accidentally get the wrong kind, it’ll still taste great, but the noodles may feel a bit limp and won’t be as chewy as egg noodles.
You should be able to find chow mein egg noodles in most Asian supermarkets. If you can’t find the Asian variety, you can also use Italian egg noodles like tagliatelle.
Chicken thigh is my favorite cut for making any stir-fried chicken because it doesn’t overcook easily and remains tender and juicy. Chicken breast tends to dry out very quickly and becomes tough and difficult to eat. I prefer to save breasts for grilling.
For almost every Chinese stir fry, the meat is marinated in the same type of marinade before cooking. The marinade helps impart flavor to the chicken while also tenderizing the meat to help it withstand the hot heat of stir-frying.
The marinade consists of soy sauce, shaoxing wine, sugar, cornstarch, and sesame oil (shaoxing wine is a popular Chinese cooking alcohol used in almost every meat dish and can be found in any Chinese supermarket). The salt in the soy sauce and shaoxing wine penetrate the meat and help the proteins hold onto more of their moisture. Cornstarch helps bind the marinade together to stick to the meat and also protects the meat when stir-frying from burning too quickly.
The vegetable choices are very flexible. I chose to use bell pepper and onion to go along with the chicken because they add natural sweetness to the chow mein along with a nice crunchy texture. Some other vegetables that are commonly used in chow mein include bean sprouts, carrots, and cabbage. Any of these will pair well with this chicken chow mein!
This sauce is inspired heavily by the sauce used for traditional Cantonese soy sauce chow mein. It’s a very simple sauce, which as the name suggests, uses soy sauce as a base. In addition to both light and dark soy sauce (yes, they are different!), we add some sugar and sesame oil. This creates a sauce that is full of umami as well as hints of sweetness and nuttiness.
Once you’ve made chow mein a few times, you’ll find that it’s a super quick and easy dish to make. However, there are a few things that can be tricky for first-timers, so here are some tips that can help!
- Prepare everything before you start cooking! This is by far the most important thing to keep in mind. I’m someone who usually prefers to start cooking and prepare the rest of the ingredients as I’m cooking, but for stir-frying, this just doesn’t work. The cooking happens so quickly that you must have everything ready to go, or else you will end up burning your food.
- Don’t be stingy with the oil. If you don’t use enough oil, your food WILL stick to your wok (especially if it’s not well-seasoned yet). A tip I found particularly useful was to toss your noodles with a tablespoon of oil after cooking them.
- Cook everything in batches. Don’t try to take a shortcut by cooking everything in the wok at the same time. If you do, everything will steam and you won’t get the smoky wok hei flavor that makes stir-fries delicious.
That’s all there really is! Once you’ve mastered this recipe, you’ll never need to order chow mein for takeout again! Let’s get started on this simple and delicious soy sauce chicken chow mein!
Looking for more authentic Chinese dishes?
- Chinese Scallion Pancakes (Cong You Bing)
- Chinese Braised Pork Belly (Hong Shao Rou)
- Yangzhou Fried Rice
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