What Is Shrimp Chow Mein?

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  • Written By: Dan Harkins
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 21 February 2020
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Meaning "fried noodles" in South China's Cantonese, chow mein is one of the country's most iconic culinary exports to America. Whether shrimp, beef, chicken or pork is used as the protein, the main feature of the dish is the pasta, which is vermicelli fried until chewy in the middle and crispy at the edges. Shrimp chow mein requires a sauce of shrimp with vegetables like carrots, onions, cabbage and water chestnuts. Following an Asian-tinged seasoning with ingredients like soy, meat stock, seafood paste, sesame oil, sugar and garlic, the medley is poured atop a bed of chow mein that has been fried until almost crispy.

Though shrimp chow mein originated in South China, its composition quickly changed when it reached American shores in the second half of the 19th century. In both California and New York, historians note how chop suey was already a popular ethnic alternative when chow mein came on the scene. Authentic chow mein has noodles fried in oil until browned and less malleable, but not until crispy. It was American tastes that apparently changed the chow mein noodle to one that, just two decades later, was mostly crispy. This is epitomized by the emergence of the American La Choy® brand of chow mein noodles that are like crunchy, noodle-shaped crackers.


To make the noodles in the traditional style for shrimp chow mein, vermicelli noodles work best. These are dropped in a wok that is set to high heat and lined with sesame or vegetable oil. As soon as the the corners of the noodles start to harden, but are still a bit chewy, they are removed and placed on paper towels to cool and dry. Before hardening completely, each individual portion can be placed on a plate.

Shrimp chop suey, meaning "little pieces," and shrimp chow mein differ in one main way. The former is traditionally served over rice, with the latter served over this type of fried noodle. For the rest of the dish, some chefs will start by dipping the shrimp in egg or egg white before starting to heat the vegetables in a hot, oiled wok. Thin, julienne slices of carrots, onions, sprouts, celery, water chestnut and mushrooms are customary, as is chopped garlic. When the vegetables begin to caramelize, the shrimp goes in too — often with a splash of rice wine or sherry.

When the shrimp is nearly cooked through and tender, a distinctive broth is formed for the shrimp chow mein. This often includes chicken stock or water, along with seasonings like oyster sauce or fish paste, soy sauce, sugar, salt and pepper. Once all the ingredients are fully blended and bubbling, a little corn starch can thicken it up some before being poured over the hardened bed of noodles.


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Post 2

@raynbow- Shrimp chow mein is a tasty dish all by itself, because the combination of vegetables and noodles give it wonderful flavor. However, much like other Asian dishes, there are a variety of sauces that can be served with shrimp chow mein to bring out even more flavor.

Soy sauce is a favorite addition to many Chinese dishes. Its salty yet light flavor enhances food without over powering it.

For people who enjoy a bit of sweetness and acidity to their meals, sweat and sour sauce is the perfect addition. It provides tangy flavor that is balanced perfectly by the sweetness of this popular sauce.

For people who just want to add a hint of sweet flavor

to shrimp chow mein, plum and duck sauces are perfect choices. They are not too sweet, and do not have a lot of acidity that could over power the chow mein seasoning.

If you are cooking shrimp chow mein for a crowd of people, you should offer a combination of these sauces for them to choose from to add to their meals. It will be a nice touch that will offer something for every taste preference at your event.

Post 1

What are some good sauces to serve with shrimp chow mein? I am planning to make this dish for company, and I want to make sure I serve it with the extras that people enjoy.

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