No pain lo-mein

I have put this recipe through countless adaptations, changing it up based on what I have in my pantry, what I have in my refrigerator and even my mood. At its most basic, it’s a fast, simple way to have fresh lo mein-style noodles in your own home (or dormitory kitchen) and on your own college student budget. This recipe allows for a great deal of improvisation (and I will recommend a few of my own variations) so that you can step this up from a quick lunch in between classes to a classic Asian-style dinner you would be proud to serve to your friends.

There are a few things you will absolutely want to invest in for your home pantry; things you will use a countless number of times, even if for this recipe alone. Get a bottle of soy sauce, a bottle of rice vinegar and a pack of udon noodles. These three staples make up the base of this recipe – the soy sauce gives it the salt, the rice vinegar gives it that familiar sweet tang, and the udon noodles hold it all together. Of course, you could find a different kind of noodle, but stick to something that only takes a few minutes to boil – rice noodles would also be a good choice. You will be able to find all of these things in the international section of any modern supermarket. Many packs of udon noodles come with three individual single-serving bundles of noodles inside, making a quick meal for one even easier.

The Pan-Fried Asian Noodle Recipe:

You will need:
1 Tbsp. oil (olive, vegetable, peanut – you name it)*
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tsp. grated ginger
1 clove of garlic (or equivalent of pre-chopped garlic)*
2 Tbsp. soy sauce*
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar*
1 serving (or bundle) of noodles*
1 cup broccoli florets
1 chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped chicken or tofu

Now I’ve marked with an asterisk the bare minimum – this recipe is certainly better with a few other ingredients, but in a pinch you can throw it together with just those five.

1. Put a saucepan of water on HIGH and get it boiling – prepare the noodles as the directions call for. When they are fully cooked, strain, rinse them in cold water and set them aside.

2. While this is starting, put a medium frying pan or wok over MEDIUM heat and add the oil. When the oil looks shimmery and hot, add the garlic (and onion and ginger if using) and sauté 1-2 minutes until light golden and extremely aromatic.

3. At this point, add the chicken/tofu, broccoli, carrots, and a splash more oil if there is none left in the pan. Continue sautéing this for 3-4 minutes (or until the chicken is fully cooked). Add the soy sauce and rice vinegar and continue to stir-fry for another minute.

4. Using a slotted spoon or tongues, remove as much of the protein and vegetables as you can and set aside, leaving only the sauce in the pan. Add the rinsed noodles and stir-fry until most of the sauce is absorbed. (Take a quick taste of the noodles – if they’re too salty add another splash of rice vinegar, and if they’re too sour, add another splash of soy sauce.)

5. Add the vegetables/protein back to the pan and continue cooking until all the food is hot and fully incorporated into the stir fry.

It doesn’t get any simpler than that! But it can get more interesting:

Try adding a tablespoon of peanut butter when you add the soy sauce and rice vinegar and stir until it melts – this will thicken the sauce and add a sweet peanut flavor the dish.

Also try adding the juice from 1 lime and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper for some spice and tang. (I like to add this and the peanut butter for a taste resembling pad thai.)


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