A lot of things make a really good chow mein. Once these are understood, you can adapt this recipe to create any variety of chow mein that you like; king prawn, chicken, pork, tofu, and the classic 'meat that I have no use for but i would rather not throw it away' chow mein.
INGREDIENTS (feeds 2):
170 - 200g Dry egg noodles
1 Medium white onion
1 Tsp sea salt
1 Tsp MSG (Ajinomoto)
2 Red Chili peppers (Jalapeño)
2 - 3 Spring onions
120 - 150ml Dark soy sauce
30 - 40g Beansprouts
1/2 Tsp Grated ginger (optional, but I recommend)
1 Tbsp Rice wine vinegar (Shaoxing rice wine)
UNDERSTANDING YOUR INGREDIENTS & PROCESS:
Understanding your ingredients will not only allow you know how to cook them, or with them properly, it will also let you know what to substitute it for, if one of mine does not suit your taste preferences. I have picked out certain ingredients, which when explained, should give you enough information as to their use, benefit and potential flavour contribution in this recipe.
Egg Noodles: I would very much like to recommend what brands I get to you, but due to my bipolar indecisiveness, I cannot tell you they are 'Sharwood's' or 'Vitasia' medium egg noodles. These are dried and therefore require boiling. if you are seeking a chinese takeaway style chow mein, then medium egg noodles are what you should go for, if you honestly do not have a single care in the world and are the type that will eat it, even if it was just a singular noodle 6 ft long and 6 inches in diameter, then pick any size. I cook my egg noodles in salted boiling water like pasta for the same reason as I do pasta; flavour. You can also use tender egg noodles, saves you having to boil it, you can just drop it in. There are some 'not-so-good' egg noodle brands out there, and what is good for one is not for another, so maybe try and see what noodle works best for you.
Vegetables (Onions, Spring onions and such): A good chow mein is not just about flavour , but also about textures. Your local chinese takes about 40-45 minutes to get your food to you and yet that onion, beansprouts and spring onions are still crunchy, and the contrasting feel in your mouth between a soft soy noodle and crunchy vegetables if the difference between a chow mein you would recommend to 'Dave' at work for his lunch, and one that you would insist your boss tries. Hint - we don't like Dave. he stays doing the most. The reason behind the crunchiness is simple; Hot pan, brief cooking. Your chow mein, once everything is prepped and ready, should really take you about 3 - 4 minutes to make.
MSG: OK, anyone who knows me, knows I have a love and hate relationship with MSG. I love it cause I have come to learn that there is nothing wrong with it and it is absolutely a great flavour booster, I hate it because I feel like it is a lazy way out and I avoid using it unless I ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO. In this case, you have to! I have made delicious Chow meins without MSG before, but if you are craving that takeaway chow mein flavour, then MSG is what they all use, and you would need it to give you just that deep sweet umami flavour you are seeking.
Rice Wine Vinegar: This is just for acidity, but I just use Shaoxing rice wine, compared to other distilled white vinegars, this is slightly less acidic and has a mild sweet flavour which I find boosts the flavour of the dish. I will not advise substituting this ingredient for normal white vinegar or malt vinegar, but things like mirin may also work in its place.
Prep all ingredients first; chop all vegetables and portion liquids.
If using dry egg noodles, have a pot of water ready and boiling and salt it, not too heavy. Cook for 3 minutes.
While noodle is cooking, add oil to a wok, or pan, and heat it up on high heat
fry your sliced onions and sliced chili peppers in the wok for 30 seconds
Add cooked egg noodles.
Add your salt and MSG and make sure to keep flipping and stirring (not too vigorous though)
Add your grated ginger and Shaoxing rice wine, then mix.
Add your beansprouts
Now add your dark soy sauce gradually until you get your desired colour, stop when you reach it, or just use more dark soy if you want it darker.
Add your spring onions 20 second before you turn off the heat, or after you have turn off the heat, your choice, just remember if you cook it for too long, it will get flat and soft.
Serve and Enjoy.
HOW TO TROUBLESHOOT THIS RECIPE:
If your chow mein seems a bit dry and/or you like a slightly wet chow mein, it is not a lot of soy sauce, but rather the starchy water used in boiling the egg noodles that you should add to the wok/pan. Remember from earlier on, this is why we do not heavily salt the water like we do pasta, just in case we need it later.
Onions overcooked? The simplest way to combat this, is to put half the onions in the beginning and if you overcook them, it's ok, just add the other half of the onion, half-way.
If using some meat or seafood, or vegan option like tofu, make sure to fry this first, then add when frying onions, or cook it first, as it would take longer to cook if done with the chow mein and would cause your vegetables to lose their crunch and they would be forced to be cooked longer.
Hope you enjoy your chow mein, and have taken away, skills and tips on how to effectively create your own chow mein recipe.
Thank you for reading. Please leave comments below.