Lo Mein and Chow Mein are two quite famous Chinese noodle dishes. The big difference between the two is the techniques used only to produce the stir-fry.
Actually, lo mein noodles are boiled to crispness, whereas chow mein noodles prefer to be fried to crispness. Apart from that, they are practically the very same food item in spite of their vegan-friendliness, so we’re going to cover them both here.
Are they vegan? All lo mein and chow mein claim not to be vegan because they include egg noodles of wheat flour. Both dishes also usually contain meat like seafood, chicken, beef, and pork.
Not to mention that you can’t find vegetarian and vegan variants of foodstuffs. However, the full version of dishes you’ll find in restaurants and grocery stores is off-limits for vegans.
What we’re going to do here is go into the different reasons that lo mein and chow mein are regarded unfit for vegan usage.
Table of Contents
Why Lo Mein and Chow Mein Are Non-Vegan
Lo Mein and Chow Mein Contain Egg
Also, both dishes comprise wheat noodles containing egg ingredients. A number of pasta is ideally suited for vegans, but sadly pasta, known as noodles, includes eggs.
The word “lo mein” usually comes from the Cantonese words “lou1” and “min6,” which means “stirred noodles,” respectively. Traditionally, lo mein is just a dry variant of wonton noodle soup.
The key difference is that the noodles are merely segregated from the soup and served sideways.
The narrow noodles are made of flour and egg, which relate to their characteristic elastic taste.
Historically, Chow mein is made with fried egg noodles that are fried, strained, and left to dry, and at that point, they are stir-fried and left to sit at the bottom of the wok (a bowl-shaped stew used in Chinese cooking) and pressed down.
It results in crisp noodles on the bottom and sides of the dish. Again, a lot of pasta is ideal for vegans. It is the protein content of durum wheat flour that leads to pasta elasticity, helping to keep its shape across the cooking process.
It’s the egg that offers an additional elastic texture to the noodles.
So, if eggs are used to make pasta, they are automatically added at around 5.5 percent (by weight).
Another explanation of why eggs are used is that they lead to the color of the final product. Durum wheat often appears to have a decent amount of carotenoid pigments, giving the pasta a vivid, golden color.
As with elasticity, eggs are often used to improve the characteristic — color, in this case, further. The yellow color is further intensified when egg yolks are used.
But that is not to say all the noodles are yellow. In addition, Asian noodles are sometimes made from flours apart from semolina flour, and, as a result, they can sometimes be transparent or translucent in nature.
Vegan-Friendly Noodles for Us in Low Mein and Chow Mein
Nonetheless, eggless noodles are available in the market, so it should be relatively easy to cook vegan-friendly lo mein and chow mein with a tweaked recipe.
Eggless noodles are often referred to as imitation noodles in the West. Asian noodles can also be rendered from mung bean, rice, yam, taro, buckwheat, corn, and potato flour.
Sources of Asian noodles involve ramen, pasta, soba, and bean thread noodles. Ramen is yet another option to make vegan-friendly lo mein and chow mein.
Ramen noodles are a form of quick Japanese noodles that have been dehydrated by frying, making them extremely porous and more prone to absorb water than normal noodles.
The application of water to ramen quickly rehydrates them, making them common for use in luncheon noodles and soups. Not all ramen noodles are vegan-friendly, but many are.
One reason food manufacturers often forego eggs as an ingredient in noodles is to boost their nutritional content for those wanting low-fat / cholesterol alternatives.
Noodles produced from eggs (i.e., most noodles) have a higher content of fat and cholesterol than non-egg-containing pasta.
Pasta is quite high in complex carbs and normally low in fat and cholesterol when eggs are omitted.
For this cause, low-fat pasta is believed to be good for health, particularly those who have diabetes or have to lower their blood cholesterol levels.
Lo Mein and Chow Mein Often Contain Meat and Non-Vegan Sauces
Lo mein is sometimes mixed in a light sauce together with wonton and beef brisket. Fish sauce and oyster sauce are widespread, both of which are non-vegan sauce.
Nonetheless, in the US, lo mein noodles are typically stir-fried with vegan-friendly sauces such as soya sauce as well as other seasonings.
Lo mein is typically served with a combination of vegan and non-vegan condiments. The former contains vegetables such as bok choy and cabbage, whereas the latter appears to include beef, roast pork, or chicken.
Shrimp and lobster are also relatively common. In Chinese American cuisine, chow mein appears to be viewed as a stir fry containing noodles, rice, shrimp, pork, and beef, while tofu is rather popular as a meat substitute.
Vegetarian chow mein is also quite widespread, and maybe some variants of the product may be appropriate for vegans when eggless noodles are used.
Are There Any Vegan-Friendly Lo Mein and Chow Mein Products?
Normally, this is where we would cover several vegan-friendly variants presently available. Sadly, there seems to be no frozen food on the market appropriate for vegans.
Most of them comprise some sort of non-vegan sauce, such as fish sauce or oyster sauce.
I have found some that are appropriate for fishmongers and pollotarians.
For example, PF Chang’s Vegetable Lo Mein Frozen Meal contains:
- Cooked Lo Mein Noodles (Wheat Flour, Water, Soybean Oil, Sodium Carbonate)
- Soy Sauce
- Oyster Sauce—Water, Sugar, Salt, Oyster Extractives (Oyster, Water, Salt), and Corn Starch.
- White Wine
- Canola Oil
- Sesame Seed Oil
- Corn Starch
- Chili Paste (Red Chili Peppers, Distilled Vinegar, Garlic, Salt)
- Chicken Broth
- Natural Flavor
- Mushroom Juice Concentrate
- Vegetables (Carrots, Celery, Onions, Peas)
As you can see, that’s far from vegan-friendly.
Please note that new vegan-friendly items are coming to the surface all the time, so I’ll keep a close eye out for any upcoming vegan-friendly lo mein and chow mein products and add them here in the future.
That’s all about lo mein and chow mein. Thank you so much for reading.
You may also want to read the following related articles:
- Lo Mein. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lo_mein
- Chow Mein. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chow_mein
- “Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.” Merriam-Webster Online. 2008. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lo%20mein
- Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 359). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011
- Cole ME, DE Johnson, and MB Stone. Color of pregelatinized pasta as influenced by the wheat type and selected additives. Journal of Food Science 56(2):488–493, 1991.
- Chansri R, C Puttanlek, V Rungsadthong, and D Uttapap. Characteristics of clear noodles prepared from edible canna starches. Journal of Food Science 70(5):S337– S342, 2005.
- Margen S, et al., eds. The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition. Rebus, 1999.
- Ramen. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramen
- Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 362). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011
- Best D. Technology fights the fat factor. Prepared Foods 160(2):48–49, 1991.
- Temelli F. Extraction and functional properties of barley beta-glucan as affected by temperature and pH. Journal of Cereal Science 62(6):1194–1197, 1997.
- Pf Chang’s Vegetable Lo Mein Frozen Meal – 12.5oz. https://www.target.com/p/pf-chang-s-vegetable-lo-mein-frozen-meal-12-5oz/-/A-51953125