What Is the Different Between Chow Fun and Chow Mein?

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Our social fondness for Chinese takeaway is profound. So deep that you may locate a Chinese restaurant or two even in the smallest of villages. And the cuisinesavory, fulfilling, and rich with many textures and flavorsis always ready in a matter of minutes!

Chow fun and chow mein are two of the most popular meals on Chinese restaurant menus, yet they are often confused or mistaken for one another. That’s understandable! Apart from their titles sounding identical, both dishes look similar, particularly when wrapped into those lovely little Chinese takeaway containers.

Be assured, chow mein and chow fun are separate foods, both worth trying for different reasons. Let’s get started!

Chinese Food Comes to America

When the big gold rush drew enormous numbers of Americans to the West Coast in the mid-nineteenth century, Chinese food came to the fore. Realizing the unexpected emergence of a whole sector, as well as the expanding wealth of chances, many Chinese immigrants made the trek across the Pacific Ocean to establish a variety of successful enterprises and services. Chinese cuisine restaurants were, of course, one of these successful ventures. It took some time, but Chinese restaurants and takeouts gradually acquired appeal among Americans as well, since the cuisine was inexpensive, unusual, and, most importantly, seductively tasty.

Is Chinese Food Actually Chinese?

One major concern that many people appear to have is the authenticity of what we call Chinese cuisine. Although it is true that certain westernized Chinese restaurants use ingredients and taste profiles oriented toward American palates, it is debatable if Chinese cuisine is in fact genuine. The first Chinese meal created in the United States was prepared for fellow Chinese immigrants who lacked access to many of the traditional components. As a consequence, replacements were made and new dishes were created, giving rise to what we now call Americanized Chinese cuisine.

Many Chinese chefs now have the potential to integrate traditional products and culinary traditions into their restaurants overseas, thanks to globalization and ease of access. Genuine Chinese cuisine continues to get well-deserved attention, but our affection for American-Chinese cooking (luckily) remains strong!

Similarities Between Chow Fun & Chow Mein

Now that we’ve covered the fundamentals of Chinese food in the United States, we can move on to the true stars of the show today: chow fun and chow mein.

While scanning the menu at your favorite Chinese takeaway, you’ll note that each of these meals start with the word chow. This term translates to fried and refers to how the food will be prepared rather than what is in them. Thus you can expect that both of these meals will be prepared by frying or stir-frying.

Another connection between chow mein and chow fun is that both recipes start with noodles and are then topped with a variety of different toppings. The noodles may change (which we shall discuss shortly), but each of these meals will have the same overall composition: fried or stir-fried noodles served with a variety of meats, seafood, veggies, and a soy sauce-based sauce to bring it all together.

The noodles in each of these noodle recipes must be partly cooked before they can be fried or stir-fried. Pre-cooking time and manner may vary based on the kind of noodle used, but this step is critical to the success of both noodle meals.

Differences Between Chow Fun vs. Chow Mein

We’ve established that chow fun and chow mein are both fried noodle meals with a similar look, particularly when topped with a variety of meats, veggies, soy sauce, and other seasonings. Yet, the similarities stop there! There are several factors that distinguish these two dinners from one another.

Chow Fun

Chow fun is said to have originated in China’s Guangzhou region, where it is known as ho fun in the local dialect. Chow fun is still a very famous dish in Guangzhou, which is situated in Southern China. The chow fun noodle dish has gone outside China, with variants available in neighboring countries such as Vietnam and Thailand.

Chow Fun Rice Noodles

What about the fun now that we know chow refers to a manner of preparation? Actually pronounced foon, this refers to the sort of noodles you may anticipate in your noodle meal! Wide and flat rice noodles, similar to the Italian pasta fettuccine, are used in this example of chow fun. Rice noodles have a delightfully chewy texture and a slick surface when cooked, making them all too easy to slurp down!

Chow fun flat rice noodles are available in both dry and fresh forms, with each requiring a distinct cooking procedure. Fresh rice noodles are ready to use right away; just put them into your stir fry or pan. Dried rice noodles, on the other hand, must be soaked in extremely hot water for 8-10 minutes (or until flexible and malleable) before cooking.

How to Make Chow Fun

It’s all about the stir fry once you’ve prepared the noodles! Chow fun meals are frequently featured with delicate slices of beef, although other meats like as roast pig, shrimp, or chicken are also options.

The beef is fried in a blazing hot wok with vegetable oil and plenty of crunchy vegetables including carrots, onion, and cabbage. When the meat and veggies have been thoroughly stir-fried, the soaked rice noodles are added and quickly stir-fried over high heat before being seasoned with savory condiments such as soy sauce, oyster sauce, or hoisin sauce. Crunchy bean sprouts are sometimes added immediately before the meal is served!

Chow Mein

Chow mein’s roots are less apparent than those of chow fun. Chow mein is said to have originated in Northern China, while the exact location is unknown. What we do know for certain is that chow mein is one of the most popular meals in China, as well as in Chinese restaurants across the globe.

Chow Mein Egg Noodles

As previously said, fun means that a meal will have rice noodles. So, what kind of noodle can we anticipate in a meal called mein? Egg noodles from China! Egg noodles that are spherical and rather thin, similar to spaghetti or ramen noodles.

Egg noodles, like rice noodles, are available both fresh and dried. Again, fresh noodles are ready to use right away, but dried noodles must be pre-cooked before being added to the stir-fry. Nevertheless, merely soaking egg noodles in hot water will not soften them enough; instead, they must be boiled in boiling water for 3-5 minutes before draining and frying.

How to Cook Chow Mein

Chow fun’s rice noodles are just briefly stir-fried and, by definition, do not acquire much crispness. When it comes to making chow mein, egg noodles become crispy and are fried in one of two methods.

To crisp the noodles, add them to the stir fry along with the meat and veggies, swirling them about and allowing all of the items to cook and crisp together. This method is similar to that of making chow fun, except that the egg noodles are fried for a longer period of time and so gain some crispness.

The second most common approach is to heat vegetable oil in a wok and add the noodles all at once, holding them together so they cook into a huge noodle pancake, similar to a large hash brown patty or potato pancake! This will produce a crisp and crispy fried noodle outside with a soft and tender core. The stir-fried meat, veggies, and spices are then placed on top of the fried noodle pancake.

What kinds of meat and veggies are often used in chow mein? Chicken is a popular choice, but other delectable possibilities include tofu, pig, and lobster, among others! The beef is often served with vegetables such as cabbage, bok choy, and sugar snap peas. Chow mein is less saucy than chow fun, but it still has lots of savory sauce components, such as sesame oil and rice wine, as well as oyster sauce and soy sauce.

Other Chinese Noodle Dishes:

Lo Mein

Oh, we’ve met again! Lo mein, like chow mein, is a meal made of egg noodles. Lo mein noodles are thicker than chow mein noodles, but they have the same ingredients, savory taste, and soft texture.

Unlike chow mein, the noodles in a lo mein meal are not fried (no crisping here! ), but rather boiled and then combined with other stir-fried ingredients. Since lo mein noodles are bigger and softer, they absorb a lot of whatever they’re tossed with. Lo mein sauce often contains ingredients such as sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce. Most lo mein recipes will feature veggies like sugar snap peas and bell peppers, and some may also include protein like beef or chicken!

Mei Fun or Mai Fun

Mai fun noodles are also known as rice stick noodles and rice vermicelli noodles. Things become even more complicated since this sort of noodle seems like a cross between mein and fun, but you can rest certain that they are rice noodles! Noodles mei fun or mai fun Mei fun, on the other hand, are extremely thin rice noodles, as opposed to the large and flat rice noodles seen in chow fun. Mei amusement

Chow Mei Fun

This is the last exam. We discovered that chow means fried, and because mei fun are thin rice noodles, chow mei fun must be fried thin rice noodles.

You’ve got it! Chow mei fun will be everything that chow fun is, however instead of broad flat noodles put into the stir fry, thin round rice noodles will be used.

Singapore chow mei fun is a popular variation of this meal. This version is created with golden curry powder, which gives it a dazzling yellow hue, and includes char siu, a sort of Chinese barbecued pork. There are also napa cabbage, carrots, and scallions before everything is mixed with dark soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil.

Chow Fun & Chow Mein: Other FAQs

Are Chow Fun Noodles Gluten Free?

Since they are manufactured from just rice and water, mai fun noodles are gluten free. The egg noodles in chow mein, on the other hand, are not gluten free since they include wheat flour. Lo mein noodles, soba noodles, and ramen noodles are examples of wheat flour noodles. Yes! Chow fun noodles and mei fun noodles

It’s important to note that just because the noodles in a dish are gluten-free doesn’t imply the meal is gluten-free. Gluten may be found in a variety of commonly used condiments, including soy sauce, oyster sauce, and hoisin sauce.

Are Chow Mein Noodles Vegan?

You’ll have to check the package to be sure, but most of these noodles include egg ingredients, so they’re not vegan-friendly. But, certain brands and restaurants may use eggless versions, so check labels carefully and don’t be hesitant to ask questions!

Chow Mein and Chow Fun: The Takeaway

Despite their similar seeming names and looks, a detailed examination of chow mein vs chow fun reveals that these two foods are completely distinct! Each meal originates in a totally distinct location of one of the major nations on earth and has various noodles, ingredients, and cooking techniques.

Chow fun is a gently stir-fried rice noodle dish that is often served with meat or seafood and lots of sautéed veggies. The broad, ribbon-like rice noodles are delightfully chewy, adding texture to this dish and making it a filling dinner.

While fried (remember, chow means fried! ), chow mein employs a slightly different cooking process to give those egg noodles a true crispness. Chow mein fried noodles are delicious when topped with spicy chicken or seafood and veggies, whether stir-fried all together or toasted as a crispy noodle pancake.

What is the most striking resemblance between these two popular Chinese dishes? They’re both delicious. Do yourself a favor and order one of each the next time you get takeout!


What is the difference between chow mein and chow fun?

Chow fun noodles are white, thick, and flat. Chow mein, on the other hand, is spherical, thin, and yellowish, similar to spaghetti. They look the same whether raw or cooked.

Is vegetable chow fun the same as lo mein?

The Preparation of These Chinese Noodle Meals Differs

The biggest difference between these two famous recipes is how the noodles are made. The Chinese name for noodles is simply mein or mian. Chow mein or chao mian means “fried noodles,” while lo mein means “tossed noodles.”

Is chicken chow mei fun the same as chow mein?

Simply described, chow mein is created from thin, spherical egg noodles that are stir-fried till crispy. Chow fun, on the other hand, are rice noodles that are flatter and broader than conventional egg noodles and are often used stir-fried in a variety of meals.

Which is healthier lo mein or chow fun?

Lo mein is much superior than chow mein in terms of nutritional value. “Lo mein is more healthier since the noodles are not fried and less oil is used in the preparation,” Jaelin explains. “Lo mein has half the calories and fat of chow mein.”

What are the two types of chow mein?

Steamed chow mein and crispy chow mein are the two primary forms of chow mein. Chefs flash fried the egg noodles before mixing them with the rest of the ingredients and covering them in a light sauce to produce steaming chow mein. Chefs press the noodles flat while cooking them for crispy chow mein.

Why is there two different types of chow mein?

Yet, it is the preparation of the noodles that separates these two famous meals, not the kind of noodle used – they are two distinct delicacies owing to their cooking techniques. The Chinese name for noodles is mein. Lo mein refers to tossed or stirred noodles, while chow mein refers to fried noodles.

Is Panda Express chow mein or lo mein?

Some may claim that Panda Express chow mein is a LO mein, but after reviewing the specifications above, you can see that it IS a chow mein. Panda was correct. The noodles are stir-fried, a touch greasy, with very little sauce, and are difficult to suck.

Is chow fun always rice noodles?

Chow fun is a Cantonese cuisine that consists of flat rice noodles called hor fun (or ho fun noodles) that are stir-fried with beans sprouts and other vegetables, beef, poultry, or shellfish, then tossed in a sweet and savory brown sauce.

What is the healthiest Chinese food?

Steamed brown rice, sautéed or steamed veggies, spring rolls, or soups like egg drop soup or hot and sour soup are healthier options. Some wonderful veggie-based alternatives include edamame, lettuce wraps, braised bamboo shoots, and cucumber salad.

What does chow fun taste like?

Beef chow hor fun tastes like flavourful, smoky, chewy, somewhat burned rice noodles. Bean sprouts with the pungent aromatics of green and white onion complement the delicate chew of meat.

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