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I don’t believe that I had eaten Chinese food of any sort until I was in high school. At least not with any regularity. And if I did, I definitely didn’t have anything other than sweet and sour something.
While it was hard for me to find decent Chinese food in my small rural town growing up, these days, Chinese food is universal and delicious!
While Chinese is one of the more common things to order as takeout, if you have a few special ingredients stocked in your pantry, you can make great Chinese dishes at home—like this easy Chicken Lo Mein! It’s family-friendly, fast, and economical.
Video! How to Make Chicken Lo Mein
KIDS AND CHINESE FOOD
This lo mein is a great chance to introduce some new flavors to kids, because you can use almost any veggie along with the chicken and noodles. This is the kind of dish you can make almost on a whim once you get the hang of it.
For this version, I used shredded green cabbage, which I knew would be a stretch for my kiddos. Little did they know that I had a secret weapon for this meal! (SPOILER: CHOPSTICKS)
WHAT ARE LO MEIN NOODLES?
Lo mein noodles are a common Asian noodle that are made with eggs and wheat. They come in a variety of thicknesses and are usually fresh (not dried). If I’m being honest though, I’ve made lo mein dishes with spaghetti in a pinch, and it turns out just fine.
Traditional lo mein noodles are getting more common these days, and you can find them in most grocery stores in the Asian section, or in the refrigerated foods section. Try to find fresh noodles, but the dried variety is also fine.
LO MEIN VERSES CHOW MEIN
Another common noodle dish in Chinese cuisine is chow mein, which is very similar to lo mein.
However, chow mein noodles are fried and tend to be crunchier than lo mein noodles. In my experience, chow mein noodles tend to be thinner as well.
Also, lo mein dishes have more sauce, while chow mein tends to be a drier stir-fry.
A SIMPLE LO MEIN SAUCE
Most lo mein sauces are very simple, with a soy sauce base. Some involve adding sugar or honey. I like to add hoisin sauce to mine, which is a little more complex; in addition to being sweet, it brings some some salty and tangy flavors that make it a great sauce base.
You could also add some chili sauce or a dash of fish sauce as well and be in very good shape.
MAKE LO MEIN WITH WHAT YOU HAVE
The beautiful thing about this recipe is that it’s adaptable to almost any vegetable. It can really be a fridge-clearing recipe. When I make this, I rarely buy vegetables for it. Whatever I have in my produce drawers goes in. Typically, however, when you order it, it is served with cabbage, shredded carrots, and sometimes peas.
So, feel free to experiment and add the vegetables that you have.
Sturdier veggies like zucchini, cabbage, and broccoli should be added after the chicken and given time to get tender in the wok before adding the noodles. If you add more fragile, quicker-cooking veggies like spinach or Swiss chard, then add them at the very end of cooking.
The DAD ADD: SRIRACHA ROASTED VEGGIES!
This is an extremely entry level lo mein dish. The sauce is about as simple as a sauce gets, which is great because it means that it’s fast to make and very approachable for children. But if you know me, you know I want a little something extra!
So, I make these quick roasted veggies, which cook in about the same time as the lo mein dish. You could use almost any veggie, but I like mushrooms and red peppers. Toss them with some sesame oil and sriracha, and they go great as a noodle topper!
THE REPORT CARD
Noodles are generally a hit with my kids, but I was a bit worried about these, because loads of veggies are mixed into this dish. Cabbage isn’t something that my kids have had a lot of.
However, there was a secret weapon for this meal: CHOPSTICKS.
My kids love using chopsticks. You can get child-friendly chopsticks that have little finger holds that make them easy to use. My kids use them for all kinds of food, and I always try to make it fun by racing them or seeing who can get the biggest chopstick bite. (Tricks of the trade, right?)
My four-year old ate a pretty solid dinner on this night, but he is getting good enough with the chopsticks that he can sort through a dish like this and avoid all cabbage. UGH. My 2-year old slurped a few noodles and then had to go tend to her stuffed puppy collection. I’ll take it.
WANT MORE EASY HOMEMADE CHINESE FOOD?
- Quick and Easy Egg Drop Soup
- Sweet and Sour Chicken
- Chicken Fried Rice
- Broccoli Beef Stir Fry
- Kung Pao Chicken