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pan-fried crispy chow mein with shrimp

What’s your favorite type of chow mein? There are multiple popular names for this dish pictured above — whether you call it crispy chow mein, Hong Kong pan-fried noodles, or something else, it’s a restaurant classic that’s always a crowdpleaser! Growing up in San Francisco, the softer, stir-fried chow mein was more popular and widely accessible. This crispy version was always a special treat whenever we’d get to order it at a sit-down restaurant!

The defining trait of this dish is the contrast of lightly crispy noodles with bites that have been softened by the savory gravy. You get some bites with crunch, and some bites that have soaked up the delicious sauce. I’m excited to share this recipe, and I hope these tips I’ve learned along the way help you achieve great results at home!

Starting with the right noodles

Here’s the brand that I use (Twin Marquis HK Style Pan Fried Noodle), but you can use any thin chow mein noodles. I get these at my local Asian supermarket (99 Ranch). Fresh noodles like these work best, but you can still achieve a great dish with dried noodles.

If fresh noodles aren’t accessible, dried noodles work as well! Make sure you don’t buy crunchy chow mein noodles (like the ones that you top salads with), but that you look for something like these.

The only difference in cooking is that fresh noodles only re quire blanching them for 30-40 seconds before pan-frying. Dried noodles require boiling for a few minutes longer, until they’re al dente, before frying them in the pan to get them crispy.

How to achieve perfectly light and crispy noodles

After cooking your noodles, make sure to dry them thoroughly. It’s the same principle as achieving a good sear on a steak — you must dry the surface well! Otherwise, the heat from the pan will simply be spent evaporating the water on the surface of the food, resulting in steamed noodles instead of crispy noodles.

Make sure to use enough oil in the pan when frying the noodles, and fry them on medium or medium high heat. You want enough oil to completely cover the bottom of the pan — usually about 3-4 tbsp. Frying on high heat can risk uneven browning and overly hard, instead of lightly crispy, noodles.

Once you add the noodles to the pan to fry, spread them out evenly and loosen them up so they’re light and airy in the middle. If the noodles stay compact, you may end up with a hard noodle pancake.

Substitutions

One of my favorite things about this dish is how versatile it is — you can do it with almost any protein and any veggies you have on hand. If you’re using beef, pork, or chicken instead of shrimp, I recommend slicing them into thin slices against the grain, then marinating in a bit of baking soda or cornstarch, some soy sauce, and oyster sauce, and a bit of oil. It’s also really popular at restaurants to include scallops and squid, but they can be a bit pricey!

In this recipe, I’m using oyster mushrooms, broccoli, and carrots, but other popular veggies for this dish are snow peas, bok choy, and any other kinds of mushrooms. You can also skip the protein altogether and make a completely veggie version.

 

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Pan-fried Crispy Chow Mein

Pan-fried crispy chow mein topped with a savory gravy — a popular takeout dish that’s easy to make and customize to your liking!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 2 people

Ingredients
  

Shrimp marinade

  • 10-12 shrimp size 21-25, peeled and deveined
  • dash baking soda
  • dash salt

For the noodles

  • 8 oz thin chow mein noodles preferably fresh, but dried also works
  • 1/2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp oyster sauce

Aromatics and vegetables

  • 3 oz mushrooms any kind
  • 2-3 oz broccoli, bok choy, or snow peas
  • 2 oz carrots
  • 3-4 slices ginger
  • 3-4 cloves garlic

For the gravy

Cornstarch slurry

  • 1.5 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1.5 tbsp water room temperature

Other

  • neutral oil for cooking

Instructions
 

Prepare the ingredients

  • Make sure the shrimp is peeled and deveined. Add a dash of baking soda and a dash of salt, and mix well. Set aside to marinate while you prepare the other ingredients.
    10-12 shrimp, dash baking soda, dash salt
  • Slice your ginger and garlic into thin slices. Wash and chop your veggies (mushroom, broccoli, and carrots) into similar-sized pieces. See video for reference.
    3 oz mushrooms, 2-3 oz broccoli, bok choy, or snow peas, 3-4 slices ginger, 3-4 cloves garlic, 2 oz carrots

Cook the noodles

  • If using fresh thin chow mein noodles, then you only need to blanch them for 30-40 seconds. If using dried chow mein noodles, boil them in water until they're al dente. Once they're done cooking, drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process and to preserve the chewy texture. Dry thoroughly with a paper towel, then add your noodle seasonings: neutral oil, soy sauce, and oyster sauce. Mix well.
    8 oz thin chow mein noodles, 1/2 tbsp neutral oil, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp oyster sauce
  • Heat up a pan on medium heat, and add just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan (about 3-4 tbsp). Once it's hot, add the noodles, and spread them out evenly. Using chopsticks or tongs, gently loosen up the noodles — this makes sure the noodles come out light, crispy, and airy, instead of hard and compact. Let the noodles fry on one side for about 4-5 minutes, or until they're nicely golden brown.
    neutral oil for cooking
  • Flip the noodles (you can invert it onto a plate if not comfortable doing a pan flip), then fry on the other side for another 4-5 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer onto a plate.

Make the gravy

  • In the same pan, add another tbsp of oil, then add your marinated shrimp. Cook them about 90% of the way through, then remove.
    neutral oil for cooking
  • To the pan, add the slices of ginger and garlic. Saute for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant, then add all your other veggies to the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the veggies have slightly softened, then add a dash of salt and Shaoxing wine (if using) to deglaze the pan.
    dash salt, 3 oz mushrooms, 2-3 oz broccoli, bok choy, or snow peas, 2 oz carrots, 3-4 slices ginger, 3-4 cloves garlic, 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • Add 2 cups of chicken broth, and let everything come to a boil. Let it continue boiling for 3-4 minutes, or until the veggies are almost cooked, but still have some crunch. Add the other sauce ingredients: soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, salt, and white pepper. Adjust the amount salt to your preference; it'll vary depending on the brand of chicken broth or chicken bouillon used.
    2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, 1/2 tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • In a bowl, mix your cornstarch slurry together, making sure there are no lumps, then add it to the pan. The gravy should begin to thicken gradually. Once it's to your desired thickness, add back the cooked shrimp, finish with sesame oil, mix, and it's ready to serve over your pan-fried noodles!
    1.5 tbsp cornstarch, 1.5 tbsp water, 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
Keyword crispy chow mein, fried noodles, hong kong style noodles, pan fried noodles
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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