Friday, March 15, 2013

Lo Mien


Like chow mien, lo mien in its original form doesn't look much like what you're likely to get at a restaurant. If you order lo mien, you'll probably get a messy stir fry with boiled noodles mixed in. Depending on the particular formula, it can be pretty good, in a comfort-food kinda way. It is another one of those things that dad made reasonably often, but that it took me years and years to figure out that when you ordered lo mien for carry out, once upon a time, somebody was trying to make what dad just called 'fried noodles'. That's what lo mien actually means, anyway.

It's all about the fried noodle cake. Once you have that, you can throw pretty much any stir-fry on top. I put broccoli and tofu on it here. Honestly, I don't remember if there was a typical thing dad put on his. I was probably too fixated on the fried noodles to care in any case.

about 8 oz noodles
salted water

Noodle cake!
Boil the noodles in salty water until they're al dente. Drain them and oil them pretty heavily, then put them in a heavy skillet on medium-high heat. Don't stir, just let them sit in the covered pan for about 6 or 7 minutes, or until the noodles in the bottom have fused into a nice brown crust. Flip the noodle cake over and fry uncovered until the other side has formed a crust, then slide the cake out onto a serving plate. Top with stir fry.

If you want to have what is in the picture, you need

1 lb extra firm tofu
2 bunches green onion, chopped
a teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
2 cups broccoli tops, cut small

half a cup water, maybe a little more
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
a splash of soy sauce
a splash of sesame oil
about half a teaspoon cornstarch

oil for frying

Cube and drain the tofu, and brown the cubes on medium heat until you are happy with how they look. Add a dab of oil to the pan if needed, then put in the onions and ginger. Stir until the onions are looking a little brown, then add the broccoli. Stir until everything is hot through. Mix all the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl until the cornstarch isn't lumpy any more, then dump it in the pan. Stir until the sauce is thickened and translucent.


1. I've been over the stir-fry territory a few times already, so instead of boring on about it again I'll direct you here, for techniques.

2. The noodles can be any kind you like. Chinese, Japanese, white, buckwheat, fetuccini, angel hair spaghetti. It's all good. For visual interest, use a 50/50 mix of white and buckwheat soba. It'll be neato.

3. Keep an eye on the temperature during frying. Too low, and the noodles will never brown, too high and they'll burn before they fuse into a crust. You can keep it at medium heat for about 5 minutes, and if the noodles look like they're fused but pale, crank the heat just long enough to add color. Conversely, if they're browning fast, turn the heat down and just let it coast.

4. "Flip the noodles over" you say. The hell you say. Actually, it's not difficult. First, make sure the noodles aren't stuck to the pan anywhere. Work a spatula under them and all around the edges of the pan. Then hold the lid firmly closed and quickly invert the pan. The noodles will fall into the lid, and then you can scoot them back into the pan. Ta da!