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What is the difference between lo mein and pan-fried noodles?

If you’re a fan of Chinese food, then you’re probably familiar with dishes like lo mein and pan-fried noodles. These two dishes are a staple in many Chinese restaurants and are loved by many food enthusiasts around the world. While these dishes may look the same and have similar ingredients, they are not the same. In this blog post, we will be exploring the difference between lo mein and pan-fried noodles.

What is Lo Mein?

Lo mein is a Chinese dish made of wheat flour noodles which are cooked and then mixed with vegetables and meat. The noodles used in lo mein are slightly thick and have a chewy texture that pairs well with the sauce that is added to the dish. The sauce used in lo mein is usually made of soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, and sesame oil. Some versions of the dish may also include egg, beef, chicken, or shrimp.

The dish is called “lo mein” because “lo” means “to stir” and “mein” means noodles, so when you add the two words together, it means “stirred noodles.” The way that lo mein is cooked is by stir-frying the noodles with the sauce and ingredients until everything is well combined.

What Are Pan-Fried Noodles?

Pan-fried noodles, on the other hand, are a bit different from lo mein. This dish is made by frying noodles until they become crispy and golden brown. The noodles used in pan-fried noodles are thin and have a delicate texture that can easily become crispy when fried.

The noodles in this dish are fried in a shallow pan until they become crispy. The veggies and meat are separately cooked and then added to the crispy fried noodles. The sauce used in pan-fried noodles is usually lighter than that used in lo mein. It is commonly made of soy sauce, oyster sauce, and a little bit of sugar.

The Differences between Lo Mein and Pan-Fried Noodles

Now that we know what lo mein and pan-fried noodles are, what are the differences between them?

1. Texture: The most noticeable difference between these two dishes is their texture. Lo mein has a chewy texture, whereas pan-fried noodles have a crispy texture.

2. Cooking Method: Lo mein is cooked by stir-frying the noodles with vegetables and meat. Meanwhile, pan-fried noodles are made by frying the noodles separately and then adding vegetables and meat to the fried noodles.

3. Sauce: The sauce used in lo mein is usually a combination of dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, and sesame oil. On the other hand, the sauce used in pan-fried noodles is often lighter and contains soy sauce and oyster sauce.

4. Noodle Type: The noodle used in Lo mein is thicker compared to those used in pan-fried noodles which are delicate.

5. Serving Style: Lo mein is served in a bowl with the noodles and ingredients mixed together, whereas pan-fried noodles are served with the crisp noodles as a base and the meat and vegetables piled on top.


Lo mein and pan-fried noodles are two dishes that share several similarities in ingredients but have different cooking methods, texture, and sauce. It’s essential to understand these differences when ordering Chinese food or trying to make them at home. Both dishes are delicious, and it’s just a matter of personal preference when choosing between them.


What kind of noodles are in pan-fried noodles?

Pan-fried noodles are a popular dish in many East Asian cuisines, including Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine. The key ingredient in this dish is of course, the noodles. There are many types of noodles that can be used in pan-fried noodles, including fresh Hong Kong noodles, fine-dried egg noodles, and even ramen noodles.

Fresh Hong Kong noodles are made from wheat flour and water, much like Italian pasta, and are often sold refrigerated or frozen. They have a wide, flat shape and a chewy texture that holds up well in stir-frying. These noodles are a popular choice for pan-fried noodles because they are easy to work with and hold their shape when cooked at high heat.

Fine-dried egg noodles, on the other hand, are made from wheat flour, water, and eggs. They are usually sold in small bunches and can be found in the Asian section of most grocery stores. Unlike fresh Hong Kong noodles, these noodles must be boiled before stir-frying, but they have a delicate texture and rich flavor that many people prefer.

Finally, ramen noodles can also be used in pan-fried noodle dishes. Ramen noodles are made from wheat flour, water, salt, and kansui (a type of alkaline mineral water), and are typically sold dried. They have a curly, springy texture and can be used in a variety of dishes including stir-fries.

The type of noodles used in pan-fried noodles varies from region to region and cook to cook. Fresh Hong Kong noodles, fine-dried egg noodles, and ramen noodles are all popular choices, each with their own unique texture and flavor. the key to a great pan-fried noodles dish is selecting the right noodles for the job, and stir-frying them with flavorful sauces and vegetables for a delicious and satisfying meal.

Are crispy noodles chow mein?

Crispy noodles and chow mein are often associated with each other, as crispy noodle dishes are one of the most popular and well-known variations of chow mein. In fact, some people may assume that all crispy noodles are chow mein, or vice versa. However, this is not necessarily the case.

So, are crispy noodles chow mein? The answer is yes and no, depending on the context. Chow mein is a Chinese dish that typically consists of stir-fried noodles, onions, celery, and a variety of meats and/or vegetables. There are different types of chow mein, but the most popular two are crispy chow mein (also known as Hong Kong-style chow mein) and soft chow mein (also known as steamed chow mein).

Crispy chow mein is characterized by its dry and crispy noodles, which are fried until they are golden brown and crunchy. The other ingredients, such as the meat and vegetables, are also stir-fried separately and then combined with the noodles. Soft chow mein, on the other hand, uses steamed noodles that are more tender and absorbent. The other ingredients are also more saucy and less oily than in crispy chow mein.

Therefore, if you are eating crispy noodles that have been stir-fried with various meats and vegetables, then you are essentially eating crispy chow mein. However, not all crispy noodle dishes are chow mein. For example, some dishes may use rice noodles or egg noodles instead of wheat-based chow mein noodles. Some dishes may also have a different combination of ingredients or seasoning that does not match the traditional chow mein recipe.

Crispy noodles can be part of chow mein, but not all crispy noodle dishes are chow mein. The context and ingredients of the dish are important factors to consider. Next time you come across crispy noodles, pay attention to the other ingredients and how they are cooked to determine if it is chow mein or not.