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The Chow Mein Topic


eatingwitheddie
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I love Shredded Pork and Szechuan Pickled Vegetable Soup, Peking Duck, Soup Dumplings, Frogs Legs with Ginkgo Nuts and sooo..... many other dishes. Live for esoteric and delicious Chinese banquets.

But I'm not ashamed to admit that I like Chicken Chow Mein too. I didn't eat it as a kid too often. I usually went for egg rolls, spare ribs, lobsters (when mom and dad were feeling flush), and when it was chow mein time, if I ordered it, it was subgum style - which was really more like diced chicken with almonds than chow mein.

As an adult I cook compulsively, frequently having guests over for elaborate Chinese dinners. I might make spicy wontons, steamed fish, oxtail, scallops with egg white etc. But then, every once and a while, I slip in some homemade chicken chow mein. It has freshly poached chicken, good stock, lots of fresh onion and celery, beansprouts and homemade crispy noodles. I love the flavor of the sauce when all the vegetable juices mingle with the stock - good stuff, not authentic, but delicious nonetheless.

What's your take on chow mein? Chow mein stories anyone?

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"~~~~~ I usually went for egg rolls, spare ribs, lobsters (when mom and dad were feeling flush), and when it was chow mein time, if I ordered it, it was subgum style - which was really more like diced chicken with almonds than chow mein."~~~~~~

Hee Hee ! Sounds like Boston's Chinatown when I was a kid, and when we made excursions into exotica. I can remember the smells on those narrow streets waaaayyyy back then in the late 30's, early 40's. This was before that new dish - MooGooGaiPan made it on the scene for us DaBiZis.

That also is the Chow Mein that my canned Dinty Moore Beef Stew, loving husband likes, complete with crispy CANNED noodles. When I try to get him into the non-Western version, he eats it, but with less gusto.

One woman I knew wanted me to try a terrific restaurant that she liked. It was where, she said, 'the chow mein had nice soft vegetables --just the way she liked it!' ARGGHHHHH!

But I know what you mean about the celery,onion,beansprout combo. It's almost like comfort food ----almost

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Eddie, we're talking about what New Yorkers call Chow Mein, not what Chinese people in San Francisco (and well, people in Hong Kong) call Chow Mein, right?

In those places Chow Mein is a stir fried egg noodle dish similar to Lo Mein.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Eddie, we're talking about what New Yorkers call Chow Mein, not what Chinese people in San Francisco  (and well, people in Hong Kong) call Chow Mein, right?

In those places Chow Mein is a stir fried egg noodle dish similar to Lo Mein.

For myself, I've always differentiated it as Chow Mein (as in 'main') and Chao Mian.

Speaking of the Western Chow Mein and it's sister -- Chop Suey, I read somewhere, that years ago there was a restaurant (??Hong Kong, Singapore??) that had a sign in the window saying:Authentic American Chop Suey served here". LOL!

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"La Choy Makes Chinese food, duh, duh, Swiiinng American!"

Is that the one you're talking about jo mel?

I actually remember those commercials(despite my youthful mien).

Hey Ed, how are you? When can I kidnap you and take you out for dumplings?

There's two places that I can think of near me that have something akin to it. One, has the right topping but no noodles, and so is sold as chop suey. The other place is fairly close, has noodles which are browned and a little crisp.

I'm fond of the Guangdong Chow Mian, but there is a little place in my heart for the comforting nature of the Western version. And my mother actually used to serve it to my Cantonese father and he liked it too.

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"La Choy Makes Chinese food, duh, duh, Swiiinng American!"

Is that the one you're talking about jo mel?

I actually remember those commercials(despite my youthful mien).

I remember them too. It couldn't be that long ago, maybe less than 20 years.

I normally would never order Chow Mein, but try the Beef and Chinese Broccoli Chow Mein next time you're at Congee Village on Allen St. just south of Delancey in Manhattan. It's a genuine Chinese dish and quite good. The Chow Mein is a layer of crispy thin noodles, and the beef and Chinese broccoli are on top of it. On the bottom of the bowl is a nice brown sauce.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I'm not sure how many eGulleter's remember Americas most popular "Chow Mein". This very large Chain Store introduced this exciting Chinese Dish, served on a Bun in every state for over 40 years.

All the F. W. Woolworth's served on their lunch counters at the end of the Counter where they served Hot Dogs, from the Steamtable, "Chicken Chow Mein with Crispy Noodles on a Bun".

This was very popular since it was something that tasted okay and was cheap enough for even kids to afford. It was also popular since it was the cheapest item served at the lunch counter, without having to wait, since it was scooped and served. They also offered a Chicken Chop Suey Plate with Rice. I'm pretty sure that this was delivered to all the stores Canned since it was one of the few things served that was consistant. I think they used to be 3 Buns for a Quarter.

This used to also be featured at, "Nathans" in Coney Island for years.

The Subgum Stlye started in the 1960's when Chinese Restaurants in NYC were adding different dishes to their menus such as Moo Goo Gai Pan, Butterflied Shrimps with Bacon and Lo Mein or Variations of Fried Rice and Egg Foo Young.

I still occasionally feel the need for some traditional Egg Foo Young, Chopped Suey or Shrimps with Lobster Sauce but it's becoming hard to find unless I make it myself.

In 1967 I brought to the United States from Hong Kong a group of Chinese Friends who were impressed with American Food, their favorite place on the West Coast was Sambo's since they had pictures of everything on the Menu, that came served reasonably close to the pictures.

When I took them to NYC and they were visiting my Mothers House in Long Beach she decided to give them a treat and ordered Chinese Food to be delivered to her house for dinner.

When the food was delivered: Lobster Cantonese, Subgum Chop Suey, Combination Lo Mein, Sweet and Sour Pork, Spare Ribs, Egg Rolls, Combination Fried Rice, Won Ton and Egg Drop Soup and Chicken Chow Mein [Crispy Noodles on Side] with Hot Mustard, Soy Sauce and Sweet Sauce.

They commented that in New York City the AMERICAN FOOD, tastes pretty good. They had no idea that this was supposed to be a Chinese Meal, only that it was better then what we'd eaten so far.

Irwin

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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Speaking of the Western Chow Mein and it's sister -- Chop Suey, I read somewhere, that years ago there was a restaurant (??Hong Kong, Singapore??) that had a sign in the window saying:Authentic American Chop Suey served here". LOL!

That was Shanghai. Grace Zia Chu, in The Pleasure of Chinese Cooking, reported seeing a neon sign in Shanghai just after WWII that read "Genuine American Chop Suey Served Here." It probably made sense, because there were a lot of US Service personnel stationed their after the Japanese Army fled.

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I know what Eddie is referring to, it was probably the tastiest choice in school cafeteria lunch lines. Always served on canned crispy fried noodles, probably the Chung King label. In retrospect, I find this ironic, as "Chung King", known as the wartime capital of China, is the largest city in Sichuan province (or was, since it's now an independent municipality). The blandness of the canned noodle based chow mein was about as far from Sichuan cuisine as could be imagined.

I can't say I miss the American chow mein of yore, but I do admit to an occasional craving for Tomato Beef Chow Mein, a one-time staple of Chinese-American restaurants in San Francisco. At least it was made with stir-fried noodles, thinly sliced beef flank and fresh tomato chunks. I always thought of it as "Chinese spaghetti".

All this notwithstanding, chow mein (chao mian) is an authentic Chinese food, with a solid place at the table, though it's not exactly fine dining.

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Gary Soup ----Thanks for the source of that Chop Suey quote. I've always laughed at it. ----But , actually, for a few years, now, I have a new respect for 'chop suey's' humble beginnings.

I have to tell a story about canned La Choy chop suey (or was it chow mein?) I was giving a series of Chinese cooking classes in my home, and the last class was a banquet, putting all they had learned, into the dinner. Each person had to cook something. My high school daughter and a friend came in. I invited them to join us. Anticipating this, they pulled out their contribution --a can of La Choy. Laughs all around! HaHa.

Well, being Scottish, I couldn't throw the stuff away, so I put it on the shelf with all my other Chinese stuff.

Later, at another class, I had to get something from that cabinet.

I opened the cabinet, in front of a pile of students, and what do they see? That stupid can which I had forgotten all about. It obviously stood out like a sore thumb among all the sauces and seasonings. Was I embarrassed! I hastily explained what had happened. Good thing! One guy saw that can and immediately thought something was very wrong with his teacher! LOL!

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as "Chung King", known as the wartime capital of China, is the largest city in Sichuan province (or was, since it's now an independent municipality).

when did this happen? last i heard, there were only 3:

tianjin, beijing and shanghai.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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[message deleted after I realized Herb was asking about Chonqing being an independent municipality, not the wartime capital of China]

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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thanks. i see that it's true, but exactly when did it happen? was it to secure access to the yangtze river?

that's the only reason tianjin is on the list, to secure beijing's access to the sea.

or at least, that's my read on the situation.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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I think it comes down to the old rule that lowbrow, well done is always better than highbrow badly done.

I would rather have a good chow mein (Or possible even sweet and sour pork!) than a bad pork belly hot pot.

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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thanks. i see that it's true, but exactly when did it happen? was it to secure access to the yangtze river?

Chongqing will be the de facto terminus of the huge reservoir created when the Three Gorges Dam is fully operational and is well on its way to being the next, great trade center in China.

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thanks. i see that it's true, but exactly when did it happen? was it to secure access to the yangtze river?

Chongqing will be the de facto terminus of the huge reservoir created when the Three Gorges Dam is fully operational and is well on its way to being the next, great trade center in China.

yes, i know. so i take that to be an affirmative?

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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thanks. i see that it's true, but exactly when did it happen? was it to secure access to the yangtze river?

Chongqing-Chengdu has been an important industrial center since much of China's heavy industry was moved behind the "white line" in the 50's and has become a population giant (30,000,00 people, almost the population of California, in Chongqing "Municipality" alone). My theory is that bestowing Municipality status is a way of keeping the region on a short leash. Chongqing will report directly to Beijing, and the highest political offices will be staffed by ambitious cadres with a demonstrated loyalty to the Party and the Central government, thereby reducing the opportunity for provincial hanky-panky or worse.

A little off the topic of food, though...

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China was very paranoid about the possibility of a nuclear attack by the US in the 50's. The "white line" delineated the area assumed to be beyond the range of U.S. missiles. China packed up whole factories and their personnel (many from the Shanghai region) and moved them to Sichuan.

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This topic and all the posts, has sparked a realisation on an aspect of my culinary preferences and indeed, an ongoing passion in my life, that I’d never before really noticed or considered;

Growing up in Wichita, Kansas, U S of A, is very likely the single most diametrically opposed spot on the world’s map from China –certainly culturally, if not geographically. Yet, only now have I realised that the love I have – culinary lust, at times, even – for

Chinese and Asian foods and culture may well have been spawned by those garish, bland and weirdly-packaged-two-cans-taped-together-veggies-in-one-beef-gravy-in-the-other, yes you guessed it La Choy (or was it Chung King) "Beef" "Chow" "Mein".

Yeah, I ATE the hamburgers. The Spaghetti. The Jello "Salad." The fried chicken. The chicken fried steak (d’oh!).

But what I always wanted to have was the Chow Mein! Initially, just the stuff out of the (well, both) can(s) – but it grew from there. I remember once, there was a little tipped-on Recipe Booklet, so you could throw your very own "Chinese Party" (featuring, of course, La Choy – or was it Chung King? – products in each and every item – can’t remember what product they tried to push when it came to Drinks). Anyway, one La Choy thing led to another, and pretty soon, I was pressing Mom for a wok, like the Recipe Booklet suggested. She got me one, and soon I was stir-frying pretty much anything that I imagined might be "chinese." In time, I discovered Chinese restaurants, cookbooks, Chinatown, and travel to Asia.

Silly story, but it is interesting to reflect on how one crappy tin of "Chow Mein" may have been the origin of a passion that I’d later investigate, experiment with, and travel widely for – even if I’d now never dream of unwrapping tape between the two cans, let alone consume the contents.

Anyone and everyone who enjoys, loves, craves, cooks and cares about good food surely has their own version of The Spark, painful as it may be to admit. Thanks Eddie, and everyone, for the occasion to contemplate.

(Note to La Choy or Chung King Corporation, if you still exist: permission denied to use this anecdote for claims of authenticity, inspiration or any other promotional means.)

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~~~~~~ Anyone and everyone who enjoys, loves, craves, cooks and cares about good food surely has their own version of The Spark, painful as it may be to admit.  Thanks Eddie, and everyone, for the occasion to contemplate.

(Note to La Choy or Chung King Corporation, if you still exist: permission denied to use this anecdote for claims of authenticity, inspiration or any other promotional means.)

The Spark!!! LOL!

As a little girl, it was the bottle of La Choy Soy Sauce, on the shelf. It was a staple. The flavor was soooo intriguingI I yearned to wear a red brocaded top with a Mandarin collar, and to have long black braids!

The soys on my shelves,now, are Chinese and Japanese. But one day I was in a friends home and she had a bottle of La Choy. I just had to taste it and it brought me right back!!! Same flavor - horrible, salty ----but still intriguing.

(Same note to the La Choy Corporation)

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All this notwithstanding, chow mein (chao mian) is an authentic Chinese food, with a solid place at the table, though it's not exactly fine dining.

Here, in my city of Boise, the numbers of Chinese in the population were very large at one time. It surprises me then to note that to get great Chinese food, I often have to make it home. There are a couple of good restaurants. One of them serves a lunch with a side dish of chow mein and it is a mix wheat noodles, onions, soy, & bok choy. It has an illusive smokey flavor I can't attribute to anything but it is an interesting note that I would not know how to duplicate. All in all is is about a cup of the dish served with every lunch. I savor it.

Love the new look of the Forum. Why don't we have an emoticon for "Yum!"? :raz: Would this one do?

Edited by stellarWOK (log)
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