Food Scoop: Vegetable Lo Mein

It’s the end of the semester, and I am feeling overwhelmed. The last couple weeks are always a rush of papers, presentations, and exams and it’s difficult to make time for real meals. Most days I have whatever I can throw together in five minutes with what I have in the kitchen. On the rare evening I have time to spend some time in the kitchen; I like to stretch out a bit. I enjoy making something a little adventurous, like a little veggie lo mein.

I’ll admit it’s not exactly authentic. One might say, “Why not just order out for Chinese? It’s faster, it’s cheap, and it hits the spot.” Well, it’s true that take-out is sometimes the perfect option, if not always authentic. However, when I’m making lo mein at home, it’s more about being adventurous with what’s in my own kitchen.

Using a bit of broth that typically ends up as a base for soup, mixing it with the kind of green onions that last graced a breakfast wrap, and making something entirely new. With an Oriental-inspired flavor, it’s a new take on the kind of flavors that I have in my kitchen most of the time. I enjoy the stirring and chopping. The way flavors come together and make something new. The scents of onions softening and ginger heating up. Making lo mein is very like making any other stir fry, but with an addition of the sauce that gives it the recognizable flavor.

I was first introduced to this dish by a friend who likes to make a lot of foods from scratch. Instead of taking the easy route of buying a tub at the grocery store, he’ll make things like guacamole fresh. I have marveled many times at how easy it is to make salsa, guacamole, or sauces if the ingredients are on hand. Lo mein is no exception, although when I first made it, I was surprised at how many ingredients were listed in the sauce alone.

My friend likes to make lo mein with chicken as well as vegetables, which is a slightly longer process since the meat has to soak in the marinade for about an hour. I’m perfectly happy with vegetables myself, since I’m a vegetarian, but I’ve made the chicken version for some of my friends.
It was quite successful, so I’m including it here.

Vegetable Lo Mein

1 ¼ cup vegetable (or chicken) broth

1 cup water

1 tbsp. sesame oil

½ tsp. ground pepper

2 ½ tsp. of sugar

1 ½ tbsp. rice wine vinegar

¼ cup soy sauce

2 tbsp. cornstarch

1 package of long noodles

2 tbsp. fresh ginger

1 tbsp. garlic

½ lb. stir-fry vegetables

6 green onions

Combine broth, water, sesame oil, ground pepper, sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce. Whisk in
cornstarch until it leaves no lumps.

Cook the package of noodles. You can be more authentic and buy a package of Asian wheat noodles, but if you find yourself short of those, I’ve used the typical linguine from the noodle section and it tasted fine.

If you’re making the chicken version, stir-fry it at this time. (More on the chicken lo mein below).

Stir-fry the vegetables starting with the ginger and garlic. For the rest of the vegetables, I typically start with an onion, some celery, a few carrots, and some bell peppers. Feel free to add whatever else you like: broccoli, mushrooms, and bamboo. Then add in the green onions.

Once all of those have been getting acquainted and cooking together for about a minute, add the sauce.

Add the chicken at this point if you’re making that version.

Simmer until the sauce thickens. Mix in the noodles and let it rest for a couple minutes before serving.

Chicken Lo Mein

4 chicken breasts

2 ½ tsp. of sugar

1 ½ tbsp. rice wine vinegar

¼ cup soy sauce

Cut the chicken breasts into thin strips. It’s easier if they’re a little bit frozen. Combine the sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce. Marinate the chicken strips in the sauce for about one hour.

While the chicken is marinating, follow the directions above for Veggie Lo Mein.

Heat some oil, about a tablespoon, in a large pan or wok over high heat. Fry the chicken until comfortably brown. This shouldn’t take very long at all. Typically, the chicken can be fried before the vegetables.

Finish according the recipe for Vegetable Lo Mein.

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