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What’s the Difference Between Lo Mein and Chow Mein?

If you order Chinese takeout often, you probably have one, or a few, go-to dishes.

This editor loves shrimp with broccoli. My daughter orders chicken lo mein, every time.

Chow Mein Noodles with Chicken Photo

If you’re like us, you may not have tried some of the other options, partly because you’re unsure about the terminology.

For instance, do you know the difference between lo mein and chow mein?

Tofu Vegetable Lo Mein Photo

They both involve noodles made with wheat flour and eggs. Mein, or “mian,” refers to noodles in Chinese.

Lo mein and chow mein dishes both require parboiling the noodles first. They both include stir-fried chicken, beef or shrimp with vegetables.

But how are they different?

Chow Mein Noodles with Chicken Image

Lo Mein vs. Chow Mein

It’s all in the method. The cooking method, that is.

Lo mein involves boiling the noodles until they’re al dente, then mixing them with the protein and vegetables. “Lo mein” means mixed noodles.

Chow mein involves stir frying the parboiled noodles. Chow, or “chao” in Chinese, means stir fry.

Tofu Vegetable Lo Mein Picture

There are different styles of chow mein in the United States and around the world. Sometimes, chow mein features crispy noodles, which is a Hong Kong tradition.

Lo mein is saucier than chow mein. Either soy sauce or oyster sauce can be used as the base. Lo mein vegetables often include bok choy and cabbage.

Chow mein has less sauce, and it’s usually based on soy. Chow mein vegetables include celery, onions, carrots, bean sprouts and cabbage.

Chow Mein Noodles with Chicken Pic

Which Noodles to Use

For lo mein, use rounded noodles, such as linguine. For chow mein, you can use either flat or rounded noodles. You can use ramen noodles for either lo mein or chow mein.

Tofu Vegetable Lo Mein Image

Now that you know the difference between lo mein and chow mein, you might want to try one of each! And be sure to check out our Asian recipes for meals to make at home.

What’s your usual order for Chinese takeout?

Chow Mein Noodles with Chicken Image