Monday, 8 February 2010

Cooking with Egg Noodles

When most people think of Chinese noodles, they think of egg noodles as these are used in one of the most popular Chinese take-away dishes, chow mein or stir-fried noodles. These noodles are very versatile and can also be used in soup noodles, mixed with sauce, or as a crispy noodle base.

Whilst you can get egg noodles at the local supermarket, it's worth going to a Chinese grocer for decent noodles. In London's Chinatown, I do my shopping at New Loon Moon Supermarket on Gerrard St but if you have a car then you could try Wing Yip. I prefer thin egg noodles and I currently use the Sau Tao brand from Hong Kong. You can also get medium and thick varieties if you so wish.

My recipe is for vegetable chow mein - sadly the term chow mein has fallen out of fashion, as it has become synonymous with cheap and nasty post-pub take-aways. Many Chinese eateries prefer the term 'stir-fried noodles', which is a bit sad, as chow mein is actually Cantonese for fried noodles. 

Anyway, I'm reclaiming the term chow mein and I hope by following my recipe, you'll also feel proud of cooking and eating this dishThis really is a simple recipe and if I can cook it then anyone can. I've included some tips in italics for those that are even crapper than I am in the kitchen.

Vegetable Chow Mein (serves one or two as a side dish)
Most vegetables will do but I just happened to have some pak choi, sweet red pepper, half a red onion, and spring onion in the fridge. Add to this some fresh ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, and noodles and you have a quick and easy meal for one or a side dish for two. 

You'll note that there are few measurements or timings and that's because stir-frying is done by instinct and not by the clock – you should be able to tell when something is ready or not by sight. You may balls it up initially but with a bit of practice, you'll get it right. 
  • Boil two nests of noodles per the instructions on the packet (I'd say two nests are the max for stir frying in a wok)
  • Once cooked, drain and then run cold tap over noodles until cool. Shake off excess water and set aside (an important step as the noodles need to be cold before stir-frying unless you like mush)
  • Finely julienne some ginger (ooh look at me with my fancy words)
  • Chop the red onion, pepper and spring onion into similar size strips (I didn't use the whole pepper - only half)
  • Blanch pak choi for about 30 seconds then set aside (the only timing you'll see in this recipe)
  • Heat wok on high heat, then add some oil when wok is hot and wait 'til oil is hot (groundnut oil is best but don't use olive oil – it's no good for stir-frying)
  • In the following order, add ginger, red onion, pepper, white bits of spring onion, pak choi to the wok and stir fry vigorously until half way cooked (don't bung in all the veg at once)
  • Add noodles, season with soy and continue to stir-fry (some people prefer to set aside the veg and cook the noodles separately for a while before returning the veg)
  • Just before finishing, add green bits of spring onion and some sesame oil (I like finishing off my stir-fries with sesame oil)
Well that wasn't too bad and over the coming months, I hope to add more noodle 'recipes' to the blog. In the meantime, I'd welcome any tips from proper cooks out there on how to improve this very basic recipe.


  1. what - no garlic or chilli? I rather like adding some julienned celery, and a little coriander at the end. To be honest though, aside from won ton noodle soup, rice noodles are my favourite.

  2. Looks like a great healthy dish to me. Very clean flavours - perfect for a simple February meal. It's the sort of thing that you can take for lunch the next day too.

  3. My better half claims that Hoo Hing is a more "authentic" Chinese supermarket. But by that, I think she means "filthy". Definitely Wing Yip. :)

  4. Congratulations on your first recipe post well done! I would add some bean sprouts at the last minute. Difinitely lots of garlic ;)

  5. Definitely add chopped garlic (about 2 medium sized peeled cloves)at the same time as the shredded ginger, but do not let it burn, as burnt garlic tastes bitter. If you are not cooking for vegetarians (and not particularly health-conscious) some rendered chicken fat or lard added to the oil will add a "luscious in your mouth" effect!

  6. Lizzie - good shout on the garlic which you'd add at the same time as the ginger. Chilli depends on personal taste as does celery ! Although, its very Chinese to add celery to stir-fries, I'm not a fan - I think my Mum pushed it a bit too hard when I was little. I love rice noodles too and I'll get round to blogging about cooking with these at some point.

    Grubworm - thanks ! I think this is the first time, I've been accused of doing something healthy !

    Anon - Wing Yip is comprehensive but I prefer the old school Chinese shops like New Loon Moon.

    3HT - thanks ! Beansprouts are a good shout as it adds a crunchy contrast to the noodles. As does Lizzie's celery although I prefer beansprouts.

    Londonchinese - welcome ! Garlic I get it ! Animal fats, an unhealthy but tasty touch ! Come to think of it, fat from a Chinese roast infused with 5-spice would also be a winner.

  7. Great start to your new blogging line. I roadtested this a couple of days ago, starting with a trip to the New Loon Moon. The place is certainly not filthy - a great shop. Excellent tip on the Sau Tau noodles. The dish worked a treat. Looking forward to more.

  8. Mr Wine - thanks ! I needed to diversify as eating in restaurants was shrinking my wallet whilst increasing my waistline. More recipes on the way with a look at how to cook with fresh noodles that you see in Chinese supermarkets.

  9. Your noodles look good, mr. noodles ;p

  10. Tigerfish - thanks ! This is the 1st time that anyone has praised my cooking ability.