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chow mein? noodles?

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#1 dmreed

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 04:36 PM

My wife and I ate at Chinese restaurants yesterday and today. The wait-persons at both places said chow mein does not have noodles (it has bean sprouts) and that lo mein is the same dish with noodles! I have never heard/read of such a description of chow mein which I thought meant fried/stir-fried noodles!

BTW yesterday the water told me that he knew that in northern China mapo dofu is frequently served over noodles! This has been a hunch of mine for quite a while and the way I prefer mapo dofu! Nice to find some validation.

Edited by dmreed, 14 May 2010 - 04:40 PM.

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#2 dmreed

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 04:39 PM

any additional information regarding chow mein without noodles would be greatly appreciated.

the same for mapo dofu served over soft noodles.
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#3 mbhank

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 05:47 PM

I could be wrong but I think chow mein means a mixed stir fry dish not necessarily with noodles. Lo mein means with noodles.

I have not seen mapo dodu served with noodles in any of the books that I have, but I'm with you. I always have it over noodles when I make it. :smile:
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#4 liuzhou

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 05:54 PM

Chow mien 炒麵 means 'fried noodles'. I don't see how you can have fried noodles without the noodles!

#5 Fengyi

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 06:31 PM

yes - I alwasy thought chow mien was 炒面 and lomien was 捞面 - BOTH of which have noodles. And I don't know what planet your "wait people" live on but I live here in Beijing and I have NEVER seen Mapo doufu on top of noodles!!! I've seen mapo flavoured instant noodles, but that's not the same. How weird!!
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#6 dmreed

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 10:50 PM

Why would it be weird to serve mapo dofu over noodles? IMHO it is quite good...better than over rice.

I will have to be sure to check chow mein recipes when I reread the books in my Chinese cookbook collection to see if any do not use noodles. It is interesting to me that the only places I have eaten where chow mein does not have noodles are the two restaurants in El Cajon, CA!

I just checked and found this http://chowhound.cho...m/topics/629916 which discusses chow mein without noodles in NYC!

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Edited by dmreed, 14 May 2010 - 10:54 PM.

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#7 Dejah

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Posted 15 May 2010 - 10:38 AM

I wonder if the confusion is in the Americanization of Chinese dishes. On the Canadian prairies, and in my own restaurant of years gone by, chow mein can be like chop suey with a sprinkling of crunchy egg noodles on top - like the ones available in supermarkets. Cantonese chow mein is stir-fried mixed vegetables, meats on top of a bed of stir-fried noodles. Sometimes the noodles can be slightly crispy. Lo mein is where the vegetables (usually julienne veg like celery, onion bean sprouts) are stir-fried/mixed in with the noodles.
I prefer the Cantonese style where the noodles at the edge of the platter stays crispy while the ones under the meat and veg are softened by the sauce. :wub:
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#8 Dejah

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Posted 15 May 2010 - 10:39 AM

As for serving mapo tofu on top of noodles, I don't think they absorb the flavour and sauce quite as well as rice...IMHO. But I'll eat it any way!
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#9 sheetz

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Posted 15 May 2010 - 02:59 PM

This reminds of the time my younger brother was first introduced to Chinese American "chow mein" when we visited NYC. Since we're of Chinese descent and grew up largely within the confines of LA's Chinese community chow mein had always meant a noodle dish. Anyway, we were in Midtown Manhattan and my brother wanted to try "NYC Chinese" food so we went to a bustling local takeout joint where he proceeded to order chow mein. The look on his face when he got his order was priceless, and my cousin and I had to spend a few minutes explaining to him that no, it wasn't a mistake, and yes, that's what locals considered chow mein.

Of course, a few days later we went down to Chinatown and got the chow mein with noodles.

Re: Ma Po on noodles, I have heard of this, but do prefer my Ma Po witn calrose rice.

Edited by sheetz, 15 May 2010 - 03:03 PM.


#10 Beebs

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Posted 15 May 2010 - 03:56 PM

This reminds of the time my younger brother was first introduced to Chinese American "chow mein" when we visited NYC. Since we're of Chinese descent and grew up largely within the confines of LA's Chinese community chow mein had always meant a noodle dish. Anyway, we were in Midtown Manhattan and my brother wanted to try "NYC Chinese" food so we went to a bustling local takeout joint where he proceeded to order chow mein. The look on his face when he got his order was priceless, and my cousin and I had to spend a few minutes explaining to him that no, it wasn't a mistake, and yes, that's what locals considered chow mein.

Of course, a few days later we went down to Chinatown and got the chow mein with noodles.

Re: Ma Po on noodles, I have heard of this, but do prefer my Ma Po witn calrose rice.


This happened to my sister & I once in NYC too, when we ordered chicken "chow mein" take-out. When we opened the container, it was just shredded chicken, bean sprouts and sauce, so naturally we thought they forgot the crispy fried noodles. So we called the restaurant. The lady explained that "chow mein" doesn't come with noodles! Being that "chow mein" literally means fried/stir-fried noodles, we never thought we'd get noodle-less fried noodles! :raz:

#11 dmreed

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Posted 15 May 2010 - 04:37 PM

I prefer the Cantonese style where the noodles at the edge of the platter stays crispy while the ones under the meat and veg are softened by the sauce. :wub:

when you say crispy noodles do you mean the deep fried noodles like shoe string potatoes or the pan fried disk of noodles which are crispy on both sides oand soft inside?

Edited by dmreed, 15 May 2010 - 04:40 PM.

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#12 dmreed

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Posted 15 May 2010 - 04:40 PM

As for serving mapo tofu on top of noodles, I don't think they absorb the flavour and sauce quite as well as rice...IMHO. But I'll eat it any way!

when I make mapo dofu at home, if I don't have Chinese or appropriate Asian noodles available, I use spaghetti...al dente, of course! noodles/spaghetti absorb enough sauce for my taste/preference.
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#13 Ben Hong

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Posted 16 May 2010 - 07:58 AM

Chow mein without noodles can not be. It's like apple pie without the crust or spaghetti carbonara without the noodles...etc...

Use the noodles that you serve with the mapo doufu for the chow mein and the world will right itself.

#14 dmreed

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Posted 16 May 2010 - 09:17 AM

Chow mein without noodles can not be. It's like apple pie without the crust or spaghetti carbonara without the noodles...etc...

that is my thought as well...but I became a little bit unsure when 2 different Chinese restaurants told me the same thing, i.e., chow mein does not have noodles, lo mein has noodles!

thanks everyone for your explanations which confirmed my previous understanding that "chow mein" does indeed mean "fried noodles"!
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#15 CFT

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Posted 17 May 2010 - 08:22 AM

How bizarre. Never heard of chow mein without noodles.

Ragarding mapo doufu on noodles ... I've had chilli on spaghetti a few times when I thought I had retrieved bolognese sauce from the deep freeze!
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#16 Hest88

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Posted 17 May 2010 - 09:19 AM

Very strange. Like liuzhou and others have said, "mein" means noodles, so noodles are integral to the dish. It would be like ordering macaroni & cheese and not getting macaroni.

#17 Beebs

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Posted 17 May 2010 - 09:57 AM

So if there's no "mein" in chow mein, would that make it just "chow"? :raz:

#18 dmreed

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Posted 17 May 2010 - 12:59 PM

How bizarre. Never heard of chow mein without noodles.

Ragarding mapo doufu on noodles ... I've had chilli on spaghetti a few times when I thought I had retrieved bolognese sauce from the deep freeze!

I often have chili on spaghetti, in fact, one can order it at many restaurants!
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#19 dmreed

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Posted 17 May 2010 - 01:09 PM

So if there's no "mein" in chow mein, would that make it just "chow"? :raz:

except that the "chow" or "chao" simply means stir fried if I understand correctly.

I would think that "chow mein" without noodles would be "stir fried vegetables" with/without tofu, beef, pork, chicken, seafood, etc. and such a dish might be called Chinese Toisanese "tsap sui" or American "chop suey".
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#20 sheetz

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Posted 17 May 2010 - 05:40 PM

Out of curiosity I checked the menus for 2 of the largest Chinese restaurant chains in the US: Panda Express and PF Chang's. Panda Express's chow mein is a noodle dish but PF Chang does not list chow mein on the menu at all. Instead, PF Chang serves both "lo mein" as well as "double pan fried noodles."

Edited by sheetz, 17 May 2010 - 05:41 PM.


#21 hzrt8w

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Posted 02 June 2010 - 04:05 PM


Chow mein without noodles can not be. It's like apple pie without the crust or spaghetti carbonara without the noodles...etc...

that is my thought as well...but I became a little bit unsure when 2 different Chinese restaurants told me the same thing, i.e., chow mein does not have noodles, lo mein has noodles!

thanks everyone for your explanations which confirmed my previous understanding that "chow mein" does indeed mean "fried noodles"!


Ha! LOL. Well Mr. Reed... you can imagine my surprise when I went to San Diego State from Hong Kong in 1979 and read what's on their menu! Chow Mein - San Diego "choy suey" Chinese restaurant style - means vegetable stir-fries with no noodle. Lo mein means noodles. I think that's from old-school choy-suey Chinese food. (Is that where you dined at?)

I would imagine that the new generation Chinese restaurants along Convoy... chow mein is noodle.

San Diego is probably not alone. In most non-Chinese populated places (like most of the USA) where Chinese food is handed down from the early 1900's... that's probably the way it still is.
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#22 dmreed

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Posted 02 June 2010 - 04:42 PM

Ha! LOL. Well Mr. Reed... you can imagine my surprise when I went to San Diego State from Hong Kong in 1979 and read what's on their menu! Chow Mein - San Diego "choy suey" Chinese restaurant style - means vegetable stir-fries with no noodle. Lo mein means noodles. I think that's from old-school choy-suey Chinese food. (Is that where you dined at?)

I would imagine that the new generation Chinese restaurants along Convoy... chow mein is noodle.

San Diego is probably not alone. In most non-Chinese populated places (like most of the USA) where Chinese food is handed down from the early 1900's... that's probably the way it still is.
[/quote]

I had not found "chow mein" without noodles in the San Diego area until the 2 restaurants in El Cajon. Every other Chinese restaurant (so far!) has noodles in their chow mein!

BTW although I am 70, Mr Reed still means my dad! Just call me Dennis :>)
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#23 Mr Pie

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Posted 03 June 2010 - 04:44 AM

Excuse my ignorance, what is mapo dofu? Not heard of this before.

For a UK style Chinese perspective, I have never seen chow mein without noodles either.
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#24 dmreed

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Posted 03 June 2010 - 06:45 AM

Excuse my ignorance, what is mapo dofu? Not heard of this before.

For a UK style Chinese perspective, I have never seen chow mein without noodles either.


check http://forums.egulle...ial-ma-po-tofu/
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#25 Mr Pie

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Posted 03 June 2010 - 07:06 AM


Excuse my ignorance, what is mapo dofu? Not heard of this before.

For a UK style Chinese perspective, I have never seen chow mein without noodles either.


check http://forums.egulle...ial-ma-po-tofu/


Thanks, very informative. I would never have thought of putting tofu with meat....
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#26 dmreed

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Posted 03 June 2010 - 10:32 AM



Excuse my ignorance, what is mapo dofu? Not heard of this before.

For a UK style Chinese perspective, I have never seen chow mein without noodles either.


check http://forums.egulle...ial-ma-po-tofu/


Thanks, very informative. I would never have thought of putting tofu with meat....

I also have some hints and preferences regarding mapo dofu on my site.
The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

#27 annachan

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 06:57 PM

Don't know how I managed to miss this thread before. This is just so funny to me. Chow mein without noodle? That's really some lost in translation there. :blink: I wonder what chow mein is translated to in Chinese on those menus....

Or maybe someone decided using bean sprout would be a good low carb option.... :wacko:





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