If you ask a Filipino what the noodle dish in the photo is, he would probably say “pancit canton”. In the Philippines, that is the generic term for any Chinese-style noodle dish that has meat and/or seafood, vegetables and sauce. Strictly speaking, however, that is chicken lo mein in the photo. Not chow mein but lo mein. A Westerner will probably agree right away because in the Western world, chow mein often means crispy noodles with stir fried meat or seafood and vegetables. Lo mein, on the other hand, is the one with soft noodles.
Although both lo mein and chow mein refer to noodle dishes with stir fried meat or seafood and vegetables, there is one distinct difference between the two and it is NOT the crispiness of the noodles. When cooking chow mein, the noodles are fried separately albeit not to a crisp but simply to coat it with oil and give it better texture. The frying stage is skipped when making lo mein. It’s not exactly a need-to-know thing in order to cook a great Chinese-style noodle dish but it is something useful when ordering noodles in a Chinese restaurant just so you know exactly what you’re getting.
Egg noodles are traditional for both lo mein and chow mein. I used a variety that has spinach in them just in case you’re wondering about the greenish tinge.
6 to 8 chicken thigh fillets, cut into 1/2-inch strips
4 to 5 portions of dried egg noodles (dried egg noodles come in “rolls” and a roll is usually good for a single serving)
half a head of garlic, peeled and minced
1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
a head of Chinese (napa) cabbage, called pechay Baguio in the Philippines
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
a cup of green onion leaves, cut into 1-inch lengths
4 tbsps. of oyster sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. of sugar to balance the saltiness
drizzle of sesame seed oil
4 tbsps. of cooking oil
Season the chicken strips with salt and pepper.
Cook the noodles until soft but not soggy, about 4 minutes. Drain, plunge in iced water and drain again.
Use the upper half of the cabbage leaves only; reserve the lower half for other use. Slice the leaves crosswise, about an inch wide.
Heat the cooking oil until it starts to smoke. Stir fry the chicken until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and sliced onion. Stir fry for about a minute then add the carrot slices. Stir fry for another minute. Add the cabbage and onion leaves and cook for two more minutes. Pour in the oyster sauce. Stir well. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Remember that you will be adding the noodles which will require seasoning too so make allowances.
Add the noodles, toss and stir to coat the noodles with the sauce and oil. Turn off the heat, drizzle with sesame seed oil and toss a few more times.