This Cantonese Chow Mein features deliciously crispy chow mein noodles topped with a tasty and savory sauce made with beef, peppers, and onions. The bold flavors and textures make this the ultimate takeout dish that you can easily recreate at home in just 30 minutes!
Table of Contents
- What is Cantonese Chow Mein?
- Why You’ll Love This Cantonese Chow Mein Recipe
- Ingredients You’ll Need to Make Cantonese Chow Mein At Home
- How to Make Cantonese Chow Mein (Step by Step)
- Joyce's Tips For Making the Best Cantonese Chow Mein Every Single Time
- Serving Suggestions
- Recipe Variation Ideas for Cantonese Chow Mein
- Frequently Asked Questions
- How to Store Leftover Cantonese Chow Mein
- Recipes To Use Up Leftover Oyster Sauce
- More Chinese Takeout Recipes You May Like
- Did You Make This Cantonese Beef Chow Mein Recipe?
- Recipe Card
This delicious stir-fried noodle dish is a classic that takes regular chow mein to the next level thanks to its crispy noodles! The combination of the crispy texture along with the savory sauce, stir-fried vegetables, and beef create an incredibly delicious dish that you're going to fall in love with!
My recipe for Cantonese chow mein is the most authentic one you'll ever find! You'll end up with the traditional, crispy noodles and learn exactly how to serve it too! What's best is that this recipe is super versatile and you can easily add your favorite veggies to it and make it your own.
Read on to learn exactly how to make this delicious Cantonese chow mein recipe today!
What is Cantonese Chow Mein?
Cantonese chow mein is a Chinese dish that's made with delicious crispy, deep-fried noodles, vegetables, and some type of protein such as chicken, beef, or shrimp. It's an incredibly popular dish that captures the flavors of Cantonese cuisine.
There are dozens of ways to make chow mein and different ways to enjoy it so what makes Cantonese beef chow mein different? Well, it's quite similar to regular chow mein but the magic happens with the delicious crispy noodles that truly sets this Cantonese version apart!
Another main difference between regular chow mein dishes and Cantonese chow mein is the way it's served. Cantonese chow mein does not cook the noodles directly with the sauce, it is poured on top right before serving instead so that you still have a bit of crispiness from the deep-fried noodles.
The process is simple and usually done in 2 steps: first, we make the noodles crispy by deep frying them, then we top the crispy noodles with the sauce, beef and veggies. This gives you a choice to have a crispier noodle with a bit of sauce by eating off the edges, or going full hog saucy by digging in the middle!
If you're looking for another type of Chinese saucy noodle dish, you should check out my Saucy Beef Ho Fun with Gravy recipe. It's similar to this chow mein dish because you pour a savory sauce over the noodles, but the main difference is it uses ho fun noodles which are soft and chewy and not crispy like chow mein noodles.
Why You’ll Love This Cantonese Chow Mein Recipe
Authentic: This recipe uses traditional ingredients and cooking methods to recreate the authentic flavors of Cantonese cuisine.
Easy: The recipe is simple and straightforward, making it easy for even the most inexperienced cooks to prepare a delicious Cantonese Chow Mein dish easily at home.
Versatile: It can be customized to suit individual preferences by adding different vegetables and proteins (chicken or shrimp).
Delicious: The combination of crispy pan-fried noodles, tender vegetables, and savory sauce creates a mouthwatering dish that is sure to satisfy any craving.
Crowd-Pleaser: Whether you’re cooking for family, friends, or a larger gathering, this Cantonese chow mein recipe is guaranteed to be a hit with everyone.
Ingredients You’ll Need to Make Cantonese Chow Mein At Home
All you need are some incredibly simple, pantry-staple ingredients to make this delicious Cantonese chow mein recipe at home.
Here's an overview of the specific ingredients for this recipe. For the exact ingredients and measurements, please scroll to the recipe card below.
- Chow Mein Noodles: Chow mein noodles can be found at any Asian grocery store in the refrigerator section, where they sell fresh noodles. They are yellow in color and are usually made with wheat flour and egg. Make sure the packaging is labeled as 'Steamed Chow Mein'. Since we are using fresh pre-steamed chow mein noodles, we don't need to boil them before using them.
- Oil: The oil will be used to fry the noodles to make it crispy. I like to use avocado oil for this but you can use any type of neutral flavored oil. Try to avoid using olive oil.
- Ginger: Next, we will need ginger. Toasting this in hot oil before we stir-fry the beef will give it a nice and fragrant flavor.
For the Vegetables:
- Green pepper: I like to add green peppers to this dish to give it a crunchy and slightly sweet taste to the dish, complimenting the other flavors.
- Yellow onion: We will also need yellow onion. It will provide an aromatic onion taste to the recipe and bring all the flavors together. You can use any type of onion for this, but I personally like using yellow or white onions for this.
For the Beef Marinade:
- Beef: We will need beef flank steak (or any kind of beef steak) to make this dish. It will become tender and flavorful when marinated with the other marinade ingredients. You can substitute beef flank with any other kind of meat you have on hand as long as its cut into thin slices. You can also make this vegetarian by omitting the meat (and the marination) steps.
- Sesame Oil: We will also need sesame oil which will infuse the beef with a rich and nutty flavor, enhancing its taste.
- Soy Sauce: Using soy sauce will add a savory and umami flavor to the beef, making it even more delicious.
- Shaoxing Cooking Wine: We will also need Shaoxing cooking wine. It will tenderize the beef and add depth of flavor to the dish. You can substitute it with dry sherry or omit it if you can't find it at an Asian grocery store.
- Water: Adding water to the marinade will make the beef more juicy and succulent because the salt in the soy sauce will draw in some of the water into the beef.
For the Sauce:
- Cornstarch + Water: I use a cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce to give it its glossy smooth texture.
- Oyster sauce: Next, we will need oyster sauce. It will add a rich and savory flavor to the sauce, adding umami and giving the sauce an authentic touch. You can find oyster sauce at an Asian grocery store or online. There is no true substitute for the slightly sweet and briny sauce, but if you can't find oyster sauce, you can try to substitute it with 2 tablespoons of hoisin sauce with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce.
- Maple Syrup: We'll also need some maple syrup or honey as the natural sweetener for this recipe. I personally prefer these two as sweeteners in the kitchen, but you can substitute this with sugar or honey as well.
- Water (to thin out the sauce): We will need some water in order to thin out the sauce. It will help to achieve the desired consistency and make the sauce more pourable.
How to Make Cantonese Chow Mein (Step by Step)
Making this incredible Cantonese chow mein recipe at home is super easy and will give you great results every single time. Here's how to make it step by step:
Step 1: Prepare Vegetables and Chow Mein
To prepare the vegetables and noodles, begin by first slicing the green peppers and onions into thin strips and set them aside for later.
Before you fry the noodles, you need to soften them up a little. If you are using pre-steamed chow mein, then either run very hot tap water over the noodles in a colander or sieve for 1-2 minutes to soften them. Alternatively, you can also soak it in a hot bowl of water for 1 minute as well. Set the aside for later.
Step 2: Marinate the Beef
Moving on to marinating the beef, begin by cutting the beef against the grain into thin slices. Place the sliced beef in a bowl.
In the same bowl, add the ingredients for the beef marinade and mix everything well. Let the beef marinate for 15 minutes at room temperature.
Step 3: Pan Fry the Chow Mein Noodles to Make It Crispy
To crisp up the chow mein, you will essentially have to deep fry it in a frying pan. You don't need anything special for this step except oil and your softened noodles.
Depending on how thick your pan/wok is, you may need to adjust your heat accordingly. For thinner pans like a wok, I usually set my pan to medium, but for thicker wall pans like a frying pan, I like to adjust the heat to medium-high.
Don't be shy with the oil. It is required to get a crispy exterior. I use about ⅛ inch of oil at the bottom and add the soft noodles in and let it fry for about 2-3 minutes a side.
To prevent it from burning, shake the pan back and forth gently to keep it moving.
Once the noodles are crispy on one side, flip it, add more oil and repeat the steps again for 2-3 minutes.
Step 4: Make Cantonese Beef Chow Mein Sauce
Now it is time to make the sauce. In a separate bowl, combine ¼ cup of cold water with cornstarch. Mix the two ingredients together until there are no clumps.
Then, add the oyster sauce to the cornstarch mixture and continue mixing until the sauce is smooth.
To this mixture, add the maple syrup (or sugar) and the remaining ¾ cup of water. Mix everything together well, and set the sauce aside for later.
To ensure the sauce is not clumpy, it's important to mix the oyster sauce with only a little bit of water first to thin it out before adding the rest of the water since the oyster sauce is notoriously difficult to mix evenly into large amounts of water.
Step 5: Putting Everything Together
Now it is time to put everything together. Set your stove to medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of oil to a pan. Once the oil is hot, add the slices of ginger and toast them until they turn golden brown.
Next, add the marinated beef to the pan and fry it for 2-3 minutes, or until it is about 80% cooked. It is okay if the beef is still slightly pink in the middle, as it will continue to cook in the sauce.
Add the sliced onions and green peppers to the pan with the beef. Stir-fry everything together for about 2-3 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the vegetables.
While the veggies and beef are cooking, give the sauce a quick stir in the bowl. Cornstarch tends to settle at the bottom, so make sure to mix it well before adding it to the pan.
Push aside the vegetables and beef in the pan, and pour the sauce into the empty space. Keep stirring with a spatula until the sauce thickens and starts to bubble. You will know the sauce is done when it becomes a darker color and has a thick consistency.
Once the sauce is ready, mix the meat and veggies back into the pan, making sure to coat everything with the sauce. Cook everything together for about 1 minute.
Lastly, remove the slices of ginger from the pan and discard them. Pour the sauce, beef, and vegetables over the crispy noodles on the serving plate. Serve the dish with some chili oil on the side for an extra kick of flavor.
Your delicious Cantonese Chow Mein is ready to be served!
Joyce's Tips For Making the Best Cantonese Chow Mein Every Single Time
- Cut Meat Against the Grain: When you are cutting the beef, you want to cut it against the grain before you marinate it in a beef marinade. This will help keep the beef tender without the use of a tenderizer and this works with beef, chicken, and pork. I also have a detailed post on how to make your beef more tender by cutting against the grain and velveting the beef if you are interested in a read!
- Add More Sauce: If you like your chow mein on the saucier side, you can double the amounts in the 'Sauce' section of the recipe card
- Don't Be Shy With the Oil: You need a lot to make the noodles crispy because you're essentially deep-frying them, so don't be shy with the oil! You may need up to ⅛ inch of oil at the bottom of the pan to start the frying.
- Serve Immediately: This dish is best enjoyed right after cooking. The noodles will be crispiest right after you make it. Serve it hot and savor every bite!
- Look for 'Steamed' Chow Mein At the Store: When you are buying Cantonese chow mein in the grocery store, look for the ones that are labelled 'steamed'. They usually come in a plastic bag in the refrigerator section where all the fresh noodles are. Buying the pre-steamed one lets us skip the step of steaming the noodles before deep-frying it.
- Serving this delicious dish with a bit of chili oil to elevate the flavor to the next level and give it a little something-something. It's something I swear by and always do whenever I have any kind of beef chow mein. A staple chili oil I have at home that I pretty much use on everything is the "Spicy Chili Crisp Chili Oil" made by Lao Gan Ma, aka The Godmother.
- For a vegetarian option, substitute the meat with tofu or tempeh. Marinate the tofu or tempeh in the marinade sauce mixture from the recipe before stir-frying. Add it to the chow mein noodles and vegetables for a delicious and protein-packed vegetarian meal.
- Serve as a side dish to accompany other Chinese favorites, such as sweet and sour chicken (or sweet and sour pork), lemon chicken or char siu. The noodles provide a nice contrast in texture to the other dishes and help round out the meal.
Recipe Variation Ideas for Cantonese Chow Mein
This delicious Cantonese chow mein recipe is so flavorful and easy to make, you'll want to try out some of these delicious variations! Here are some great ideas:
Spicy: For a spicy twist on this classic dish, add some crushed red pepper flakes, sriracha or sliced fresh chili peppers to the sauce. This adds a kick of heat to the dish and gives it extra flavor.
Seafood: To make a seafood version of this dish, add a mix of shrimp, scallops, and squid to the stir-fry along with the vegetables. This adds a delicious seafood flavor to the dish and makes it a bit more luxurious.
Vegetarian: For a vegetarian version, omit the meat and add a variety of colorful vegetables such as mung bean sprouts, bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots, and snow peas to the stir-fry. This is a great option for people who want to incorporate more vegetables into their diet.
Chicken: Another popular way to have Cantonese chow mein is with chicken. Instead of beef, you can swap it out with chicken slices (both dark meat and white meat will work). You can use the same marinade in the recipe card, but add 1 teaspoon of cornstarch as well. This will make the chicken velvety. Instead of using peppers, you can add fresh bean sprouts instead.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cantonese chow mein is a popular Chinese dish made with deep-fried noodles, vegetables, and sometimes meat or seafood. It is known for its crispy noodles and delicious sauce.
Yes, you can make it without meat or seafood. Simply omit the protein and increase the amount of vegetables in the dish. You can also add tofu or mushrooms for added flavor and texture.
To make crispy noodles for Cantonese chow mein, you can either deep fry the noodles until they turn golden and crispy, or you can pan-fry them with a lot of oil until they become crispy. My recipe includes all the instructions to make it perfectly crispy.
How to Store Leftover Cantonese Chow Mein
To store leftovers, start by first transferring the dish into an airtight container or wrap it tightly with plastic wrap. Place the container in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking. The leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to three to four days.
You can easily reheat any leftovers in a skillet or wok over medium heat until heated through. Alternatively, you can microwave the leftovers in a microwave-safe dish, stirring occasionally until heated thoroughly.
Freezing is not recommended as the texture of the noodles may become mushy and the vegetables may lose their crispness. Plus, the sauce can separate and become watery upon thawing and reheating. It is best to enjoy the dish fresh or consume the leftovers within a few days.
Recipes To Use Up Leftover Oyster Sauce
More Chinese Takeout Recipes You May Like
- Sweet and Sour Pork
- Chilli Chicken
- Sweet and Sticky Crispy Beef
- Sweet and Sticky Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)
- Sweet and Sour Chicken (Hong Kong Style)
- Chinese Eggplant with Garlic Sauce
- Saucy Beef Ho Fun with Gravy
- Steamed Spare Ribs with Black Bean Sauce
- Beef Chow Fun
- Chinese Lemon Chicken
Did You Make This Cantonese Beef Chow Mein Recipe?
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Crispy Cantonese Beef Chow Mein
Joyce's Recipe Notes
- When you are buying Cantonese chow mein in the grocery store, look for the ones that are pre-steamed. They usually come in a plastic bag in the refrigeration section where all the fresh noodles are. Buying the pre-steamed one lets us skip the step of steaming the noodles before deep-frying it.
- If you like your chow mein on the saucier side, you can double the amounts in the 'Sauce' section of the recipe card
- Don't be shy with the oil. You need a lot to make the noodles crispy because you're essentially deep-frying them.
- Always cut your beef against the grain for the most tender beef slices.
- ½ lb fresh Cantonese style steamed chow mein noodles (approximately ½ package of a 16oz/454g package, which is about 3-4 cups)
- 4-6 tablespoons oil
- 2 slices ginger
- ½ green pepper (sliced, approximately 1 cup)
- ½ yellow onion (sliced, approximately 1 cup)
- Spicy Chili Crisp Chili Oil
Preparing the Vegetables and Noodles
- Slice the green peppers and onions into strips and set aside
- Add the chow mein noodles into a colander and use your hands and to loosen it up gently. Pour hot water over it to slightly it. I find it easiest to use hot tap water and run the noodles under it for 2-3 minutes. Alternatively, you can also soak the noodles in a bowl for 1 minute with boiling water. Set the noodles aside once the noodles are soft.
Marinating the Beef
- Cut the beef against the grain into thin slices and put it in a bowl.
Making the Sauce
Making the Noodles Crispy
- In a wok or frying pan, set the heat to medium to medium-high heat.
- Add 4-6 tablespoons of oil to the pan and wait for the oil to shimmer. You may need to add more, depending on how large your pan is. I like to add about ⅛ inch of oil to the bottom of the pan.
- Add in the soft noodles and let it 'pan fry' for about 2-3 minutes. Do not flip it, you can shake it around in the pan to keep it moving to prevent it from burning.Flip the noodles and add some more oil to the pan to fry the other side for 2-3 minutes, shaking it occasionally in the pan to prevent it from burning.
- Once the noodles are crispy and done, remove it from the pan and spread it out on a serving plate
Putting it Together
- Set the stove to medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of oil
- When the oil is hot, add in the slices of ginger and toast it until it is golden brown
- Add in the beef and fry it for 2-3 minutes until the beef is about 80% cooked. It's okay to have the beef medium rare for this dish, it will cook the rest of the way in the sauce.
- Add in the onions and green peppers and stir fry it with the beef for about 2-3 minutes (we don't want to overcook the veggies)
- Give the sauce a quick stir in the bowl. (Cornstarch likes to settle at the bottom so we want to make sure the sauce is evenly mixed before we add it to the pan.)
- Push aside the veggies and beef on the pan and pour in the sauce.
- Keep stirring with your spatula until it thickens and starts to bubble. You will know the sauce is done when it becomes a darker color and it becomes thick.
- Mix the meat and veggies back in over the sauce, making sure to coat everything with the sauce, and cook it for about 1 minute.
- Remove the ginger slices and discard them.
- Pour the sauce, beef, and veggies over crispy noodles and serve.
- Enjoy with some chili oil on the side!
*Nutritional information is calculated using online tools and is an estimate*
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