Almost certainly the most popular Chinese dish consumed in the country’s diaspora, chow mein (chāu-mèing) is, very simply, stir fried noodles. Of all the many varieties of chow mein, chicken chow mein is the most ubiquitous – at least in Britain. In my family if we have Chinese takeaway chicken chow mein is always lurking.
For me, trips made to my local takeaway – though few and far between – are almost always accompanied by a hefty dose of inspiration. My recipe for Chinese Crispy Beef is testament to that. And this chicken chow mein is no different; I ate and was compelled to replicate.
My compulsion to replicate was particularly strong here; many recipes for chāu-mèing seem far too complicated, with vegetables and other non-essentials thrown in without thought. Chinese cuisine is, at heart, a simple one. Few ingredients, rustic flavours; divine.
As you can see, this recipe uses leftover roast chicken; chicken breast simply doesn’t do the job. Pieces of succulent brown meat combined with strips of roasted breast provides by far the best flavour.
If you must cook with fresh chicken increase the marinating time and try using chicken thigh. The brown meat of a chicken is superior in flavour and texture to breast and it’s important that the taste of the meat breaks free of the soy sauce.
The result of the recipe below is a sort-of gourmet version of the takeaway classic. Not left swimming in a watery soy sauce concoction, the noodles remain perfectly cooked with a slightly firm texture. And as a result of keeping things simple every flavour is individually recognisable and enjoyable.
Chicken Chow Mein
- 200g egg noodles
- 100g leftover chicken, in strips
- 3 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- juice of 1 lime
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- thumb sized piece of ginger, sliced
- 1 clove of garlic, sliced
- 300g beansprouts
- 3 spring onions, roughly sliced
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp soft brown sugar
- Create a marinade by mixing together 2 tbsp of soy sauce with half of the lime juice. Add the chicken and coat thoroughly.
- Cook the egg noodles according to the packet instructions (unless using fresh). Rinse through with cold water once prepared and set aside.
- Heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a wok until smoking hot. throw in the ginger, garlic, bean sprouts and spring onions. Stir fry for 2 minutes and set aside.
- Heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in the wok, again until smoking, before adding the chicken. Cook for 2 minutes before tossing in the prepared noodles.
- Add the remaining soy sauce, lime, salt and brown sugar, followed by the prepared vegetables.
- Stir fry until piping hot throughout and thoroughly mixed. Serve immediately with a further drizzle of sesame oil and a little finely sliced spring onion.
Cost: Roasting your own chicken and using the meat is the cheapest way of preparing what is otherwise quite an expensive product. Use it carefully – and boil the bones for stock – and what you have is enough meat for the week for around £5 (free range).
100g of chicken may not sound much, but over the course of 4 meals it stretched surprisingly far and we never felt as though the chow mein was lacking anything at all. Not bad for £2.40 all in.