Chow fun and chow mein are both noodle-based Chinese dishes that can be stir-fried with meat and vegetables. However, the noodles used are entirely different. Chinese food lovers will often compare the two noodle-based dishes.
If you are interested in cooking these dishes, you need to understand that the two noodles are vastly different.
What Is Chow Fun?
Chow fun is essentially delicate, wide flat rice noodles. If not cooked properly, then the noodles could break.
Many classic Chinese recipes use chow fun. For example, the beef chow fun recipe includes thinly sliced beef steak, soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, oil, and ginger.
You will find that the Chinese have variations of chow fun dishes that alter types of proteins cooked in a wok together with the rice noodles. These include roasted pork, shrimp, and chicken varieties. In many cases, cooks will fry the protein alongside crunchy vegetables such as carrots, onion, and cabbage.
There are stories of how this popular dish was invented during World War II in Guangzhou, China. Today, chow fun is a popular dish in dim sum style Chinese restaurants.
What Is Chow Mein?
Chow mein is essentially egg noodles, which are made of flour and egg. The word ‘mein’ means noodles (麺) in Chinese. In general, the egg noodles retain their shape and structure quite well. So there are options on how to prepare chow mein.
Chow mein was an invention in Northern China. When comparing chow fun vs chow mein, the latter entered the shores of America in the 1850s. Hence, you will find that the Chinese dish is available in many local Chinese restaurants.
When contrasting chow fun vs chow mein, you can cook the egg noodles in a regular flat skillet. A wok is not necessary to cook chow mein.
Is chow mein the same as pasta?
No, chow mein and pasta are not the same. Although chow mein and pasta are both made from refined wheat flour, the former is typically made with an addition of an egg and is different in shape.
Chow fun noodles are thick, flat and white. Meanwhile, chow mein is round, thin, and yellowish, comparable to spaghetti. Raw or cooked, they basically appear as such.
But how do chow fun vs chow mein dishes compare to one another in terms of looks?
For chow fun, stir-frying marinated beef slices with rice noodles and bean sprouts is the most common way of preparing the Chinese dish. Also, since the mein’s surface are wide, they tend to look greasier. The thicker nature of the noodles also means that they usually look soft and not crispy.
On the other hand, chow mein dishes usually look crisp when stir-fried and served at restaurants. Moreover, as they are thin, chow mein have a larger overall surface area. Hence, they tend to hold more oil despite not looking as greasy.
Like chow fun, dishes that use egg noodles are also typically topped with meat or cooked vegetables. However, cooks usually keep the crispy egg noodles dry to soak up the various sauces. Many recipes recommend pressing down on the noodles to sit at the bottom of the wok.
Chow fun vs chow mein has a rice-like flavour, while the chow mein tastes closer to pasta.
The flat rice mein taste closer to pounded rice cakes or sticky rice. However, unlike plain cooked rice, the process of refining rice to make chow fun causes it to have a smooth, mild sweetness to them.
In addition, chow mein has a yolk-like flavour, which is mildly pungent with sulfuric tones.
For chow fun dishes, Chinese chefs usually cook them in a wok using a method of dry frying. The use of the wok or deep skillet is what gives the noodle dish a smoky flavour.
With chow mein dishes, the aroma of the egg noodles will fill your nose with delight once it's cooked. Chefs may also char the mein’s surfaces slightly to add a smoky flavour to them.
While there is a vast variety of chow mein recipes, classic Chinese cooking methods usually include aromatic ingredients such as onions, ginger, and garlic. In addition, typical condiments added are soy sauce, oyster sauce, and brown sugar.
You will find that various meats and vegetables, including mushrooms, chicken, and pork, are added to these classic Chinese dishes.
While noodles make up the base of these dishes, they are usually not the main attraction in Chinese dishes. So, the flavorful tastes come from the additional ingredients used.
For chow fun vs chow mein, the flat rice noodles served at restaurants tend to have a greasier and more slippery texture. In contrast, the latter are usually drier and easier to pick up with chopsticks.
The more oily texture of chow fun comes from how Chinese cooks prepare them. Many Cantonese restaurants may also prepare chow fun using the method of wet cooking. This cooking method points to the process of soaking the noodles in oil before cooking. Then, cooks fry them while still moist, which gives them a more slippery feel.
On the other hand, cooks prepare chow mein by boiling and straining them. Many people are familiar with this method of preparation which is the same as pasta. Once boiled, you stir fry the Cantonese chow mein until they become slightly crispy and charred on the outside.
When we compare the nutritional content of chow fun vs chow mein, chow fun has more calories per serving, the majority of it coming from carbohydrates. However, chow mein has more protein and fat content per serving than chow fun.
For those concerned about gluten allergies, rice noodles are naturally gluten-free. But, bear in mind that the sauces used in typical rice noodle dishes can contain wheat products. So, look for recipes that do not use wheat-based sauces.
Adding protein and vegetables to these Chinese dishes can assist with the nutritional value of the dishes.
You can find many vegetarian and vegan recipes for both chow fun vs chow mein. If you do not wish to put meat in your recipe, the various sauces can enrich the flavour of the noodles without using any meat proteins.
If we compare uncooked chow fun vs chow mein, chow fun has 135 calories in 100 grams, while chow mein has 167 Calories in 100 grams. However, their cooked dishes may have entirely different calorie amounts.
While many people enjoy having a large number of noodles in their meals, we recommend eating them in moderation.
Chow fun vs chow mein is two very popular Chinese noodle dishes.
Chow mein is an authentically Chinese dish, with its popularity dominating in northern China. An accurate location in northern China, however, continues to be a debate.
On the other hand, Chow fun resonates in the south of China more. They have expanded across Southeast Asia over the years. The Art Science & Culture of Food says that chow fun has spread into many different Asian cuisines. For example, these include countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia.
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