New Attempt: Chicken Lo Mein

My family enjoys typical Chinese takeout food. Fried Rice. Sweet and Sour Chicken. Egg Rolls. Because we don’t eat out often, it’s a rare treat. One of our favorites is Lo Mein. Those delicious savory noodles with a sprinkle of crunchy veggies and chunks of juicy meat, at least that’s what it’s like when it’s done well. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it!

My girls will eat about anything with noodles, and I don’t know why it never occurred to me to try this dish at home! I mentioned on facebook that it was a success and was asked for the recipe. Here’s where I hit a snag that is common for me: I rarely use recipes when I cook. Recipes are about precision, and I use them when I bake. (Though I often tweak them! My husband knows what I will say the first time I try a new one. “I can make this better next time!”) Cooking is much more fluid for me. I add things depending on what we like, what mood I’m in, what I have handy. So, this isn’t technically a recipe, but it’s an idea. It can give you a good start and you can add things to taste until you’re happy with the result.

Once again, no photos. Sorry about that! I know exactly how photos are supposed to go for a proper food blog, but I can’t imagine taking the time to shoot them in the middle of weekday dinner prep with three small, hungry children around.  I will never make it as a food blogger.

So…Lo Mein.

*Imagine lovely photo of all ingredients on an empty  tabletop completely absent of scratches and stray crayon and marker scribbles*

I started boiling a pot of salted water for the pasta. I used Ronzoni’s Garden Delight spaghetti. It’s a beautiful color and is made with spinach, tomato and carrot, so I’m sneaking in extra vegetables. First time I’ve used it, but it will definitely go on my grocery list again. (No, they did not pay me to endorse it. But if someone were to want to send me products to try, I’d be happy to give them an honest review!)

*Picture of spaghetti package in foreground, boiling water in background. Pot of water is perfectly shiny, stove top is spotless.* 

Meanwhile, I drizzled some oil in a large, heavy skillet. Sometimes I usually use olive oil, but I prefer peanut oil for the few Asian dishes I’ve tried. A few drops of sesame seed oil added here makes a huge difference. Huge. It seems really pricey until you find out how little of it you need to use for a major boost in flavor. I used less than a teaspoon in this dish, but I truly think it makes an enormous impact on the gobble-it-up factor. If you’re not allergic, and you think that you might make some Asian-inspired dishes in the future, it’s worth picking up. Into the oil I added about 2 Tbsp of leftover finely chopped onion and about a cup of frozen peas and carrots. I finely chopped a couple of stalks of celery and threw that in, too. Then I just sprinkled on salt and pepper, stirred it occasionally and watched the colors brighten while I cut up the meat.

*Photo of skillet with beautifully bright vegetables, bottle of sesame seed oil to the side, label turned toward camera for easy reading*

I had 3 leftover Asian glazed chicken thighs. (Recipe coming soon…it’s a new favorite here!) I cut the meat off of the bone and diced it. I loved knowing that it would already have an Asian flavor, but I’m sure that regular grilled chicken or rotisserie chicken would still be delicious.  I think it was about a cup and a half total, but less would be fine. I added about 3 cloves of crushed garlic to the pan of veggies and tossed in the meat. Since it was coming from the fridge, I wanted to give it a chance to get nice and hot.

*One-handed action shot of garlic being squeezed out of the press over the simmering pan by a hand that does not have a week old polish job or stray bits of glue and glitter from a preschool art project*

When the pasta was done, I drained it in a colander in the sink. We like it tender, even though I know that is technically overdone. My apologies to Italians everywhere.

*Photo of beautifully golden pasta in 1970’s mustard yellow colander inside a pristine stainless steel sink. And did I mention? The lighting is perfect.*

Before adding the pasta, I made the sauce. I wanted a lot of flavor, but not a lot of liquid, since there isn’t much to absorb it at this point. I poured in about 3 Tbsp of soy sauce and a Tablespoon of hoisin sauce. Hoisin sauce is a thick sauce made of fermented soybeans. It tastes much better than that description sounds. It’s worth having on hand to add to marinades or glazes for meats, or for dishes like this one. I also sprinkled in some onion powder and just a pinch of powdered ginger. Yes, I know, I should use fresh ginger. I don’t much care for ginger, so I can’t be bothered to have it on hand. Now you know one of my deep, dark secrets. See why I’ll never be a legitimate food blogger? You can use fresh ginger and tell me how much better your lo mein is than mine. I can take it.

*Photo of designer pan full of delicious food, soy sauce in the background, hoisin sauce and a stick of fresh ginger in the foreground. Since we’re pretending, let’s pretend big.*

I should have tasted at this point, but I didn’t, rebel that I am. (Or I just forgot.) I added the pasta back to the pan and tossed it all together. I had used a spoon up to this point, but tossing the chunky meats and veggies with the pasta required tongs. (In reading that sentence, I think perhaps I should not have had the words “tossing” and “chunky” so close together, but it makes me laugh now, so I’m leaving it. This is what you get when I write blog posts at midnight – no quality control!

*Action photo of tossing chunkiness. Bet you’re glad I don’t take pictures now, cause nobody wants to see that.*

I did taste it at this point, and added a bit of salt, a little more soy sauce, but mostly it was good! I let it simmer for a few minutes to allow the flavors to meld, then I served it up in bowls. Wish I knew where my chopsticks are!

*Photo of stylish, black, square bowl full of lo mein, chopsticks perfectly perched on one corner, artfully arranged on a hand-stitched lotus blossom place mat*

I might try more hoisin next time. I’m still learning to work with it, so I’m a little conservative.  I think that a tiny bit of sriracha would give it a bit of kick if you like that idea. (More about sriracha in the upcoming Asian glazed chicken recipe.) I think a little strong chicken stock would be good, too. I love Better than Bouillon, and it would be easy to mix that up to add a lot of flavor without a lot of liquid. If I didn’t have chunks of chicken to toss in, I’d definitely want to add that.

*Picture of Better than Bouillon, mostly so I can look at it to remember how to spell that word. I’m a good speller in general. I can even remember to spell sriracha correctly, so why can I never remember where the ‘i’ goes in bouillon?*

I love versatile recipes like this! Toss in whatever leftover veggies you have, or whatever fresh ones are on sale. Add some leftover meat and a few ingredients from your cupboards. Sprinkle in some of your favorite flavors and cook it until it all tastes fabulous. Serve it with love, and watch everyone devour it and ask for more!

I hope that this little “tutorial” gives you enough to go on to try this out. If you get lost, refer to the pictures. They should help clear things up.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tawni Rebecca Martini
    Jun 09, 2012 @ 20:49:50

    Thanks! This looks significantly less intimidating than I feared it would be! And the pictures help a lot! 😉

    Also, though having been trained (by my dh and Mario Batali) to prefer the pure al dente of Italian cuisine, I must agree that Lo Mein is an exception. I’m always disappointed when I order it and it isn’t a little bit mushy.

    Reply

  2. Tawni Rebecca Martini
    Jun 16, 2012 @ 00:51:39

    Actually, I was thinking about this more the other night as I was making stir-fry. Italian cuisine seems to be Chinese backwards: Italians like their pasta al dente and their veggies soft, Chinese vice versa. The theory is that the two are actually closely related; Italian cuisine became what it is after Marco Polo brought pasta back from the Orient. Makes sense to me. 🙂

    Reply

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