Monday, February 6, 2012

Soy Sauce Chow Mein (Stir Fried Egg Noodles)

Whenever my family went out for dinner at Chinese restaurants, this was the first dish that my parents would order for us kids to eat in order to shut us up, while we waited for other relatives to arrive or as my dad took his time to carefully consider the menu items and ordered. Once we were seated, my dad would get the waiter to immediately bring out a plate of soy sauce chow mein, this is a Cantonese dish and literally translates into “soy sauce king chow mein”, as the soy sauce is the star of this dish. It was a bit of a pre-dinner snack, pre the entrees (although we generally didn’t order entrées). Us kids would have this dish all to ourselves and eat it all up as we waited for the main dishes of the meal to arrive.

Did anyone else have a similar experience to me as a child? Did your parents order you a dish at a restaurant as a snack at the start of a meal before the mains would come?

Soy sauce chow mein is a dish that is really quick and easy to fry up at home but worth ordering at a restaurant. Chow mein ordered from restaurants always taste better than home cooked versions because restaurants have huge stovetops that enable these noodles to be fried quickly over high intensity flames, and gives the noodles ‘wok hei’, which is the smoky aromatics imparted by a hot wok on food during stir frying.

The key to getting these noodles right is to undercook the noodles a little in the first step when you are reconstituting them in boiling water, so that the noodles maintain a firm texture (take into account that you will further cook them in the wok). Have all your prep ready and work quickly. A tip that I learnt from my dad for cooking noodles so that they don’t break is to use chopsticks to stir fry and toss everything around, it works everytime, guaranteed to minimise noodle breakage! I either have a pair of chopsticks in each hand and frantically toss everything together, or have a pair of chopsticks in one hand and a spatula in the other, and use both utensils to incorporate everything. The chopsticks also allow me to get between the layers of ingredients and noodles, and mix everything together well.

I like to cook soy sauce chow mein when I want something quick, simple and tasty for dinner.

Soy Sauce Chow Mein 


For 2-3 serves
•    ~250g fresh thin egg noodles (you’ll find them in the refrigerated section of Asian supermarket)
•    5-6 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and sliced
•    bunch Chinese flat leaf garlic chives, cut into 4-5cm lengths
•    200-300g bean sprouts
•    salt
•    Shaoxing wine
•    roasted white sesame seeds

 (Fresh Egg Noodles from my local Asian supermarket)

Soy Sauce Mixture

This quantity of soy sauce is more than enough to cook the above serving. I always mix a bit more sauce than I need, so that I have some leeway when cooking to adjust the taste. Leftover sauce can be used to cook more noodles (you may need to mix some more if you are cooking a large quantity of noodles) or refrigerate the mixture and use for a stir fry.

•    1 tablespoon light soy sauce
•    2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
•    1 tablespoon oyster sauce
•    1 teaspoon of sugar to taste
•    pinch of salt and ground white pepper to taste
•    ½ teaspoon sesame oil
•    4-5 tablespoons of water to taste

[Note: For this dish to be completely vegetarian, you can omit the oyster sauce]


Add the fresh egg noodles to a pot of boiling water and simmer until just cooked (check the packet instructions, cooking time is usually 1-2 minutes). Drain noodles in a colander and run them under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain the noodles thoroughly until dry.

Mix together sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Before cooking with the wok, dry fry a tablespoon of white sesame seeds to colour and bring out their aroma. Remove and set aside.

(Toasting sesames seeds in wok)
 (Toasted sesame seeds)

Heat some oil in a wok, sauté garlic chives until fragrant, add in the bean sprouts, a pinch of salt and splash in some Shaoxing wine. Stir fry the garlic chives and bean sprouts together until the bean sprouts are cooked yet still crunchy (30-60 seconds). Remove and set aside in a colander to drain any water that leaches from the bean sprouts.

Heat some oil in a wok and sauté the shiitake mushrooms until browned. Then add in the egg noodles, toss and stir them around constantly to cook evenly (using chopsticks helps). Spoon in the soy sauce mixture, a tablespoon at a time, and stir well into the noodles, add as much soy sauce as desired (approx 5 tablespoons or more) and taste as you go (be quite liberal with the soy sauce as this is what makes these noodles taste good). Once you are satisfied with the flavour of the noodles, add in the garlic chives and beans sprouts to the wok and quickly toss altogether until combined.

 Serve with roasted sesame seeds sprinkled on top.


  1. Yum! So easy yet so delicious! Anything that features mushrooms is a goer for me!

    1. Thanks :) Sometimes this dish is served without mushrooms and just the garlic chives and bean sprouts but I like to add mushrooms, especially shiitake, they are my favourite!

  2. Hi Ai-Ling,
    I just made this and, very unusually for me, ate about 60% of it in one extended meal like a greedy pig :). It was delicious ! Thank you for your foolproof recipe. One good way of describing it is as a symphony of flavours & textures. Even the tiny sesame seeds contributed their crunchiness and smoky taste. I was lucky enough to buy fresh Shitake mushrooms (Po-Ku) from a large Chinese supermarket near me, and used those in place of the dried ones. I also bought some Enoki mushrooms and will use them in a repetition of this recipe. Whoever marries (is married) to you will be (is) a lucky man !
    God bless you and thanks again.