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.
For the noodles
For the sauce
Prepare noodles by soaking in hot water, boiling, or steaming according to package instructions until slightly undercooked.
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.
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.
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.
Return onions and bean sprout mixture to the wok. Pour sauce over everything and toss well, cooking just until heated through.
Taste and adjust seasoning as needed with soy sauce or dark soy sauce. Finish with sesame oil. Toss and serve