Vegetarian Chow Mein (Chinese Sauteed Noodles with Tofu and Vegetables)

Vegetarian Chow Mein (Chinese Sauteed Noodles with Tofu and Vegetables) Recipe

I've noticed that kids love chow mein. It's probably because they are crazy about soft noodles in general. I usually make a huge pot of stir-fry green beans and tofu the day before and use the leftover to make chow mein. I love making chow mein, I think it's because of the sizzling sound of the stir-fry vegetables and noodles in the wok. And it's quite some exercise stir-frying and lifting a large quantity of food using 2 big spatulas, so you will feel like you've earned the calories when you eat it!

The combination of stir-fry noodles, vegetables and soy sauce is a  classic in Chinese cuisine. Make chow mein at home; there's no need for take out. It is always a hit.



Yields: 12

1 portion green beans and tofu, check the link for the recipe
2 packs chow mein noodles
3 Tbs canola oil, as needed
2 tsp garlic, finely minced
1 carrot, shredded, cut about 2-in long
1 zucchini, diced
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black bean sauce
2 tsp chili garlic sauce, to taste
3 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs water, as needed, to balance the saltiness of the soy sauce
1 cup shitake mushrooms, cubed
1 small yellow onion, cut in small wedges
1 tsp black peppercorns, freshly ground, to taste
1 drizzle toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped


Separate and unknot the fresh noodles. Fill a big pot with water.  Bring to a boil. Place the noodles in the boiling water , return the water to a boil then lower the  temperature to a medium low. That way the pasta is cooked all the way through evenly. Salt the water half way through the cooking process (it will bring out the natural flavor of the pasta and the noodles will be softer) and keep stirring every now and then so that the noodles do not stick to the bottom.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes. When the pasta is cooked (tender but still in shape and firm), drizzle about 1 tablespoon of canola oil, then drain the noodles. Discard the liquid. Set aside.

Make some green beans and tofu. Click on the link to get the recipe.

Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a wok.  When the oil is hot ready, add a teaspoon of garlic. As the garlic becomes slightly golden, stir-fry the shredded carrots for about 2 minutes. When the color is translucent, season with 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt. Add the onion wedges and cook for another minute. Transfer to a plate. Set aside.

Repeat the same procedure for the zucchini (cook for about 4 minutes) Transfer to a plate. Repeat the same procedure for the shitake mushrooms (cook for about 2 minutes). Don't overcook the vegetables as they will continue cooking in the noodles later. Set the plates aside.

In the same wok, place the cooked noodles. Cut them if necessary with kitchen shears. Add all the vegetables, green beans and tofu, black bean sauce, chili garlic sauce, soy sauce and water. Stir constantly. Cook for about 3-5 minutes. Add black pepper.

Sprinkle some fresh cilantro. Drizzle with sesame oil.

Serve immediately. Eat with chopsticks .


Vegetarian Chow Mein


The process is very similar to making ma-po tofu, except that you mix noodles with the vegetables and tofu and no thickening agent is added.

A fast and easy way to shred carrot is with this wonderful gadget from Messermeister. It's THE best utensil for julienning vegetables. Is that a verb?

The soy sauce brings saltiness to the dish and a nice amber brown color. My favorite soy sauce is the Da Bo De brand. It has a very nice flavor and is not too salty. You can this particular suace in downtown San Jose, like at Dai Thanh Asian market on 420 S 2nd St, in San Jose. Well, it's not the prettiest. Don't expect to enter an Asian version of Whole Food, but it has all the fresh Vietnamese produce at a very reasonable price. This is one of the best "ethnic" grocery store in the area.

I use the West Coast Noodle Co. I think this brand is the best for making chow mein. You can find the noodles in the fresh section of any Asian store.

You can use store-bought black bean and chili garlic sauce like the one from Lee Kum Kee. It's just that my husband grew so many habanero and Thai chiles last summer. We got a whole box full. So I decided to make batches of chili garlic sauce. You can check for the recipe of the tướng ớt, literally spicy dipping sauce in Vietnamese, it's ultra easy.

The addition of the sesame oil at the end is optional but brings a nice fragrance to the noodles.

Here are a few tips to guarantee a non-soggy chow mein:

- The higher the range of your stove is, the better. We use a 20,000 BTU burner at home. The food cooks faster and you get to keep all the nutrients in your food, especially when sti-frying vegetables. If you do not own a range with very high BTUs, when you place the noodles in your wok, lift the noodles using 2 large spatulas and constantly lift and stir-fry the food, moving the food in circular motion.

- All the vegetables and fried tofu cubes should be diced the same size for a homogeneous product.

You can add chicken breast cubes to the chow mein right at the end, once the noodles are cooked. I usually use chicken breast leftover from my rotisserie chicken. I dice some chicken in same sized cubes as the tofu and add it to the wok for the carnivores in the house.

Vegetarian Chow Mein Closeup

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on May 19, 2009.


[-] Veggie Chow Mein - Guest-Elyse
You know, it was quite funny reading about this chow mein. When you talked about kids loving the noodles, I immediately thought of my boyfriend Todd. He's a kid at heart, and he definitely loves his noodles :) I think I'm going to make this stunning dish for him sometime soon!

Elyse Website Link
[ Posted at 5:21 PM on 5/19/09 | Reply ]
[-] I love Chinese food - Guest-AmyThownsend
My boyfriend and I love getting take out from our local Chinese restaurant. Chow mein is our favorite meal. I'll try your recipe. Thank you. You're right, no need for take out!
[ Posted at 8:11 PM on 5/19/09 | Reply ]
I love how your pictures simply zoom into the food with each iteration
[ Posted at 8:35 PM on 5/19/09 | Reply ]
[-] I love Chow Mein (Lo Mein?). - Guest-skooma714
One day I might get an entire take out box with just chow mein.

I hate places that make the noodles all dry and crunchy. A somewhat pricey Chinese restaurant downtown (Panda Inn) makes much less palatable chow mein imo than some hole in the wall place in my town that's next to some shitty laundromat. Why is the takeout place's better? The noodles are soft.
[ Posted at 12:03 AM on 5/20/09 | Reply ]

@Elyse: I understand what you mean. When I refer to the kids, Lulu's included. It's exactly the same comment I made about making macaroni and cheese.

@Bilal: I picked those photos to showcase all the vegetables in the noodles. I'm glad you liked it.

[ Posted at 12:24 AM on 5/20/09 | Reply ]
[-] Noodles - Guest-CarolynJung
I don't think I've ever met a kid who wasn't wild about noodles. That goes for "big'' kids, too, like myself. ;)

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[ Posted at 2:39 PM on 5/20/09 | Reply ]
this looks so yummy, my mouth is watering even though i just had dinner.

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[ Posted at 5:36 PM on 5/20/09 | Reply ]
Irresistible. MUCH better than take out.

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[ Posted at 9:34 AM on 5/21/09 | Reply ]
This looks SO delicious. I have been craving Chinese food for the past week or so and I am so happy that you are encouraging to make it at home. I am going to print out the recipe and see what I can do.

Kelli Website Link
[ Posted at 11:00 AM on 5/21/09 | Reply ]
This looks so good, I really want to try this out. (minus the cilantro an tofu) Your pictures are gorgeous!

Sara Website Link
[ Posted at 11:02 AM on 6/4/09 | Reply ]
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[ Posted at 6:08 AM on 5/1/13 | Reply ]
[-] Quick Question for Everyone - Guest-booperdoop
Has anyone actually made this recipe? I know all your boyfriends love that all of you would make it for them but I would like to know what this actually tastes like and get a rating of how good it really is. Just saying.
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