Beef lo mein is a Chinese noodle dish containing wheat flour noodles, vegetables, and beef. Though it originated in China, the dish is quite popular throughout the rest of the world, and there is no definitive beef lo mein recipe. The term "lo mein" refers more to the method of preparing the wheat noodles than to any specific recipe or limitation on ingredients. Recipes vary with individual tastes and geographic region.
Lo mein is like the meat-and-potatoes of Chinese cuisine and is available in nearly every part of China, though it often features different ingredients. It is often confused with chow mein, which uses a different preparation method. Both use noodles made from wheat, flour, and egg and both require boiling the noodles before cooking. Chow mein, however, requires the noodles to be fried in oil before adding other ingredients, while lo mein recipes call for adding the noodles to the already-prepared mix of meat, sauce, and vegetables in the last five minutes of cooking.
The ingredients used in lo mein dishes always include wheat flour noodles and beef, but the sauce and vegetables vary largely from region to region in both China and other countries. Lo meins are known for having flavorful, savory sauces. Vegetable additions usually depend on the type of sauce being prepared and the local tastes.
American-Chinese cuisine has its own variation of beef lo mein. While the noodles are still added near the end of cooking, many of the vegetable ingredients used in Western-inspired lo mein are rarely, if ever, used in Chinese lo mein. In the Americanized version of beef lo mein, western broccoli is a common ingredient and is substituted for Chinese broccoli, called kai lan, which has a similar taste but is leafier and more bitter.
Carrots are another common ingredient in American beef lo mein. They are typically substituted for daikon radishes, which are not popular in Western cuisine and can be difficult to find depending on the area. These lo mein dishes also tend to rely heavily on yellow onions instead of green onions, or scallions. Other common ingredients in American-Chinese beef lo mein include bok choy, cabbage, and other vegetables in addition to lo mein noodles and some form of beef.
There are numerous beef lo mein recipes, which can be found in restaurants or prepared at home. Traditional Chinese lo mein remains very popular both in China and elsewhere and is relatively quick and easy to cook. New concoctions, like lo mein fusion dishes, are also becoming increasingly more popular for their combination of flavors.