Easy, Crispy Cantonese Chow Mein

A plate of Cantonese chow mein
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
4 servings

Cantonese Chow Mein, or 鼓油皇炒面 which translates to something like soy sauce pan fried noodles, is a classic dry noodle dish whose unassuming appearance and simple ingredients belies its moreishness. In fact, its intentional simplicity let the flavours of the soy sauces be front and center. Light or regular soy sauces are typically used interchangeably in home cooking, even though they do differ in saltiness (light soy sauce being the saltier of the two). They add saltiness and umami. In comparison, dark soy sauce is the least salty, is more viscous and a little sweet. It is aged longer and usually mixed with molasses and caramel colour which gives Chinese dishes such as this one their distinct taste and signature brownish colour. Traditionally eaten for breakfast, these noodles are just as great for lunch or dinner alongside a plate of sautéed Chinese greens. The chewy noodles slick with that irresistibly savoury-slightly-sweet sauce will surely have you going back for more.

Related: Simple 15-Minute Chinese Tomato Egg Drop Soup



For the noodles

lb chow mein noodles
Neutral high heat oil
bunch scallions (6-8), cut into 2-inch pieces, white and green parts separated
white onion, thinly sliced
cups mung bean sprouts (optional to pinch off head and tail – I don’t)
tsp sesame oil

For the sauce

tsp granulated sugar
Tbsp hot water
Tbsp dark soy sauce
Tbsp light or regular soy sauce
Tbsp Chinese rice cooking wine, optional
Tbsp oyster sauce


Ingredients for Cantonese chow mein
Step 1

Prepare noodles by soaking in hot water, boiling, or steaming according to package instructions until slightly undercooked.

Step 2

Meanwhile make the sauce, starting with the sugar and hot water first to melt the sugar easily, then whisk in remaining sauce ingredients. Set aside.

Step 3

Heat a large wok or pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Once oil is shimmering, add white parts of scallions and sliced onions to stir fry until just beginning to soften, 1-2 minutes. Add green parts of scallions and mung bean sprouts. Stir fry 1 minute and scoop everything out. Set aside.

Step 4

Add 1 tablespoon of oil into the wok and heat until shimmering. Add prepared noodles, moving around to coat the underside and arranging to maximize contact with the surface of the wok. Cook mostly untouched for 2-3 minutes or until noodles are crispy and golden. Flip. Drizzle another tablespoon of oil around the edge of the wok or pot so that it slides down the side and under the noodles. Again, cook mostly untouched 2-3 minutes or until this side is crispy and golden.

Crispy chow mein in a wok
Step 5

Return onions and bean sprout mixture to the wok. Pour sauce over everything and toss well, cooking just until heated through.

Step 6

Taste and adjust seasoning as needed with soy sauce or dark soy sauce. Finish with sesame oil. Toss and serve

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My rating for Easy, Crispy Cantonese Chow Mein