Basic Chao Mian (Chow Mein) Technique - [Cooking]

Have not had much time to write articles for my food blog lately. My father is going to be meeting with some tech companies in the area this coming week, and he's planning to drop by our place to take Cat and I out to dinner. My dad and I get along pretty well, so this is all good. However, it does mean that I need to finish the once monthly big house cleaning this weekend before he comes by. Gotta mop the floors, clean the kitchen and bathrooms, vacuum, etc. Friday the 13th was Cat's birthday, so she's visiting her parents in San Pedro. It's just me, the cats, and a whole lotta fur to brush out of the carpets.

Time permitting, I'm planning to write up another super post tomorrow. We'll see how the cleaning goes. I spent all day at it today, so I'm hoping I'll be able to wrap it up by mid-afternoon tomorrow. Maybe I'll even be able to hit the bike trails for a few hours. In the meantime, here's a picture of my lunch to tide you over.

Meet my refrigerator chow mein. I needed a quick lunch, but didn't have any old rice in the fridge and didn't want to make any new rice. So I went with frozen, store-bought egg noodles instead (trust me, they're in there.)

I use this basic technique whenever I need to throw something together or use up some ingredients in the fridge. The ratio is fairly simple:

1/4 cup aromatics <-> 1/4 cup protein <-> 2 cups starch <-> 2 cups filler <-> 1 cup of gravy slurry (broth + seasonings + 2 tbsp cornstarch)

The aromatics were two cloves of garlic, minced, and seven Thai bird chilies, thinly sliced.

The protein (optional), was a few slices of turkey bacon (better for my heart) that I roughly julienned.

The starch, in this case, was the egg noodles, which I reconstituted in boiling water and set aside in a colander to drain.

The filler was 1 cup of konnyaku, thinly sliced, 1/3 cup of okra, sliced, 1/3 cup of celery, sliced, and 1/3 cup of oyster mushrooms, thinly sliced.

The gravy slurry was a cup of chicken broth with 2 tbsp of cornstarch and 1 tbsp of nuoc mam (fish sauce).

I started out by rendering the turkey bacon in my wok at medium heat, with a little drizzle of rice bran oil to get it started. Once the bacon was crisp, I added the konnyaku and gave it a few more minutes to force out some of the water so that it could better absorb the flavors. I then set the bacon konnyaku mixture aside.

Using the oil left in the wok, I fried the egg noodles I'd already heated and drained. I made a disk of noodles in the center of the work, fried one side to a crisp, then flipped the noodle disk and fried the other side. When I was done, I had a thick disk of noodles that was crispy on the surface and soft inside. I plated the noodles.

I then cranked the heat up to high and added a tablespoon of rice bran oil. Once the wok had started smoking a little, I added the garlic and Thai bird chilies, stir-fried them for about thirty seconds, then added the okra. A minute later I added the celery. Thirty seconds after that, I added the oyster mushrooms, tossing the contents of the wok the entire time.

After another thirty seconds, I added the bacon and konnyaku mixture, along with a tablespoon of chopped fermented soybeans and a pinch of salt. Thirty seconds later, I deglazed the wok with a little cooking sake and added the gravy slurry. I let the mixture simmer until the gravy had thickened and turned glossy, then poured it over my crispy noodle disk.

This is a fairly basic technique that can be adapted to use whatever you happen to have in the fridge. Just remember not to crowd the wok. Add the filler in the order of longest to cook to shortest, giving the wok time to come back up to high heat between additions. The protein should always be cooked separately and first, then added last, although how you do it will depend on the type that's being used. Also, remember that the gravy will not be fully thickened until it comes to a boil.


Total Prep + Cooking time - 10 minutes


OK, I give up. What's a bird chili?
- Cathy (the pseudo-Kirk)

hi chubbypanda,

what'a a konnyaku? it looks like okra. wok cooking is so quick! i've never wok'd before. i'm not sure if it'll be good with my electric stove.

Hi Cathy,

Here's a brief description and picture of Thai bird chiles. The site may take a little while to load. It's a bit slow.

They're chile peppers that pack a nice bit of heat and flavor in tiny packages of painful pleasure. I tend to have a bag of them kicking around in my fridge at all times.

Hey Yoony,

Konnyaku is an almost calorie-free, firm jelly made from the root of the Devil's Tongue plant that's high in water soluble fiber. It's the white stuff in the pic, not the okra. It's also called konjac. Here's a Wikipedia article about it, as well as a article outlining its many health benefits.

- Chubbypanda

i love konnyaku jelly.. In singapore here..that's a hot fave dessert among the Chinese esp my sis who loves making them. And in variety of shapes and colours and even flavours! Your noodles look good. :)

Rice bran oil! That's the expensive stuff right? I've heard of it, and its health benefits, but was curious, how does it taste?

BTW, that's a mighty large portion. Eat that by yourself? I'm kinda curious what the noodle disc looked like.

Hey Lavendar Cupcake,

Konnyaku is great stuff. I like it both sweet and savory. It's really low in calories and also remarkably good for you. A great health food.


Rice bran oil is very light and practically flavorless. It also has a fairly high smoke point and is full of good fats. It makes an excellent substitute for the peanut oil usually used for stir-frying.

Yup. Biiig portion but low in calories, since it was mostly filler veggies and konnyaku. The whole plate was around 600 cals. Perfect fuel for a big day of cleaning.

Hey Chubbypanda!

I hardly see konnyaku and okra in asian stir fry dishes, but man, that sounds good! I sure the back doesn't hurt :) hehe. With you cooking skills, you should eat out less and cook more - we could all learn lessons from you!


Awww... Thanks!

- Chubbypanda

Mmmm, I love the colours and the different textures.

ok-I was researching rice oil and I found that it is loaded with antioxidants. It is healthier than peanut oil and has the highest smoke point of all oils except avacado oil. I don't think it is very expensive.