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What Is The Difference Between Lo Mein and Chow Mein: Know What You Eat

Chinese cuisine is one of the most delicious in the world, but also amongst the most complicated. In every region, there are variations of every recipe, and the worst thing is their names can be confusing, especially for someone who does not speak their language.

In the rest of this post, we will tackle what is the difference between Lo Mein and Chow Mein, two of the most popular Chinese dishes. While they are both noodles, they differ in more ways than one.​

What’s In a Name

To get started in knowing the differences between the two, it is important to be familiar with what the name literally means in English. Mein, or also mian in native Chinese, means noodles. This makes sense as the two dishes use wheat flour egg noodles as the main ingredient.

In English, Chow Mein literally means stir-fried noodles. Meanwhile, the literal meaning of Lo Mein is tossed noodles. The latter is already a clear indication that the two are different in a major way. They are just both noodles.

Manner of Preparation​

From the way they are named, it is clear Lo Mein and Chow Mein are not the same. If you plan to cook these two dishes, pay attention to the recipe so as not to be confused and to be sure the outcome will be as envisioned.

To make Lo Mein, start by tossing the egg noodles in the wok and have it combined with the ingredients you want, such as meat and veggies. Toss the noodles around the wok while they are cooked and serve while it is hot.

Another variation of cooking Lo Mein is cooking the meat and veggies first, and after this, add the noodles in the wok. You can also consider adding sauces of choice depending on the preferred flavor.

In the case of preparing Chow Mein, the noodles are first boiled to make it soft. It will then be combined with a stir fry mixture and will be cooked till the desired level of crispness is achieved.​

Chow Mein can be further classified into two types. It can be steamed, which results in a soft texture. It can be crispy, served dry and does not come without any sauce. Americans have tweaked the recipe to suit their palates and made it crispier than the traditional dish.​

Noodles Used

Aside from the way they are cooked, they can also vary in the shape of the noodle that is used. In the case of Chow Mein, you can choose from flat or rounded noodles. On the other hand, in Lo Mein, only round noodle is used.

The quality and taste of both dishes will depend on the noodles used. This is why it is important to pick the best. Choose those made from all-natural materials, which include wheat flour, salt, and water. The absence of artificial colorings and flavorings will be a good thing since it can result in a better taste, aside from being better for your health.​

Sauce Used

There are also differences in the sauce used in the two. Traditionally, Lo Mein is the one with more sauce. When it is cooked, it is usually bland. This is the reason why most people opt to add a sauce. More so, because it is boiled, the sauces tend to be heavy since they can be easily absorbed.

Chow Mein, in contrast, uses a lesser amount of sauce. This is because it is fried, which provides more flavor and also lessens the ability of the noodles to absorb the sauce. When it has a sauce, it tends to be thin and watered down. This is as against to the sauce of Lo Mein, which is usually thick.

Other Ingredients Used

For both Chow Mein and Lo Mein, aside from the noodles, other ingredients include shrimp, beef, or chicken, depending on the preferred taste. When it comes to veggies, some of the most common include bean sprouts, celery, carrots, and cabbage.

Cooking Time​

When it comes to cooking time, this may be different depending on the noodle used. Obviously, if it is thicker, whether you are cooking Lo Mein or Chow Mein, it will take longer before it is cooked.

Nutritional Value

In knowing what is the difference between Lo Mein and Chow Mein, you should also be familiar with their nutritional value. Because of the differences in preparation and ingredients used, their nutritional content will also vary.

Since the noodles in Chow Mein will be boiled for a longer time, this can result in higher fat content. On the other hand, because Lo Mein contains sauces, this will lead into higher sodium.

If you want protein, you should consider substituting meat with vegetables. Either Lo Mein or Chow Mein, if it contains 100 grams of chicken, one serving will have 6.8 grams of protein. On the other hand, if it only has vegetables, protein per serving is only 1.4 grams.​

Between the two, Chow Mein is the more popular dish and has been altered in many ways to suit foreign preferences.


At this point, we hope you are already familiar with what is the difference between Lo Mein and Chow Mein. These staples in Chinese cuisine both taste great, but they should never be confused with each other.

In a nutshell, the following are some of the most important points raised above:​

  • Lo Mein means tossed noodles. Chow Mein means stir-fried noodles.
  • Lo Mein and Chow Mein are both prepared using wheat flour egg noodles.
  • The two are prepared in a different way and they also have different nutritional value.
  • Regardless if it is Lo Mein or Chow Mein, adding meat instead of veggies will make it protein rich.
  • Lo Mein generally has thicker and flavorful sauce.

Did you enjoy reading this post? Is there anything else you would like to add? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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