Who can turn down a heaping bowl of chow mein? Inspired by my mom's version, this BBQ pork chow mein is delicious, satisfying, and easier to make than you think!
This BBQ Pork Chow Mein is a recipe that was inspired by what my mom used to make for us when I was younger, and it continues to be a family favorite. I shared a photo of this chow mein and my older sister immediately commented “That reminds me of Mom’s chow mein!” And one of my nieces said, “That looks like Grandma’s chow mein!” Needless to say, this dish is definitely associated with my mom in my family! I’m happy to share this food memory, not only with my kids, but now with you!
While I have named the recipe Mom’s BBQ Pork Chow Mein, it’s not exactly like how she made it. For instance, she used celery, whereas I do not like celery. I also had to guess a bit at getting the flavors right, because, like most Chinese mothers and grandmothers, they never measure anything when they cook and they don't write anything down! However, the main gist of it is there. I guess this is more like Lisa’s version of Mom’s BBQ Pork Chow Mein, but that title is a bit long!
Before I get to the recipe, I want to offer some quick insight into the term “chow mein”. Westerners pronounce it “chow MAIN” and that’s how you hear everyone say it. However, in Cantonese Chinese, we call it “chow MEEN” (I won’t confuse you by mentioning tones…). If translated word-for-word, chow mein means “fried noodles”, with "fried" referring to stir-frying (as opposed to frying an egg or steak where they just sit in the pan).
I’m not sure how many people actually wonder what the words mean when they say them, or if they think that they’re just made up. But I’m here to tell you that they actually do mean something! The pronunciation, however, just got a bit butchered in the process of bringing the dish to the western world!
So the next time you see “chow mein” on a menu, you can think “chow MEEN” and what those words actually mean…stir-fried noodles!
On to the recipe!
As the name says, this chow mein uses BBQ pork, or “cha siu” as we call it in Cantonese. You will be able to find this at any place that sells Chinese barbecued and roasted meats. Obviously, this is readily available everywhere in Hong Kong, but you should also be able to find them locally where you live, most likely in Chinatown (if your city has one), or at Asian markets or some Chinese restaurants.
Next it’s on to the noodles, or the “mein” part of this recipe and everyone’s favorite!
This recipe uses steamed chow mein noodles, which are basically fresh noodles that have been par-cooked so that they are ready for stir-frying. All they need is a quick bath in boiling water to loosen up, a cold shower rinse, and they’re ready for cooking! You can usually find them in 1lb. bags in the refrigerator section of your Asian supermarket, along with other packages of fresh noodles. If you cannot find steamed chow mein noodles, you can also use Chinese style dried wonton/egg noodles. (See the Recipe Notes below for more information.)
Then comes all the other ingredients that complete this dish…onions, carrots, cabbage, bean sprouts, and the sauce. Prepare all these ingredients so they’re ready to go, and once you get to cooking, you’ll have BBQ pork chow mein before you know it...just like this!
(This is the just-cooked in the pan shot!) I can envision my mom pointing to the finished chow mein in her wok and saying, “See? EEEASY!” 😉
This is a great one-bowl meal, and I often enjoy eating it with some chili sauce (another thing I got from my mother!). It makes for great leftovers and also freezes well…if you actually have any leftovers!
It is also a big crowd pleaser. When I lived in California, I would often cook up a batch to take to parties or potluck meals and it was always a hit. It became a dish my friends would specifically ask me to make for gatherings!
If you're interested in trying out another one of my "mom-inspired" recipes, check out Mom's Noodle Egg Foo Young...it's another tasty dish from my childhood that I'm thrilled to be able to share.
Forget about take-out chow mein and try making my mom’s BBQ pork chow mein in your kitchen. It’s healthier, you know all the ingredients going into it, and as my mom says, “EEEASY!”
Mom's BBQ Pork Chow Mein
- 1 lb. (454g) steamed chow mein noodles (See Notes 1 & 2 below)
- ½ lb. (227g) BBQ pork (See Note below on substituting)
- 2 tbs light oil
- 1 medium carrot julienned
- ½ onion sliced thin
- 2 oz. fresh bean sprouts rinsed
- 2 oz. green cabbage sliced thin
- Green onions sliced into 1" lengths
- 4 tbs soy sauce
- 2 tbs honey
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper (black pepper is okay, too)
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- Combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. Set aside.
- Slice BBQ pork into strips. Set aside.
- Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil.
- Add steamed chow mein noodles to the boiling water and stir with chopsticks to loosen, about 1 minute.
- Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse well with cold water.
- Shake excess water from the colander and let noodles continue to drain.
- Heat a large wok over medium high heat.
- Add oil, then add sliced onions and carrots. Stir-fry for about 1 minute until fragrant.
- Add the BBQ pork to the pan and cook about 1 minute.
- Stir the sauce and add to the pan, mixing with all the ingredients. Let cook about 1 minute.
- Add the cabbage and bean sprouts and mix to combine.
- Add the noodles and the green onions.
- Using two spatulas or two cooking spoons, lift and toss all the ingredients in the wok to mix.
- Continue to mix until noodles are heated through and ingredients are well combined. No liquid should remain at the bottom of the wok.
- Steamed chow mein noodles can be found at Asian supermarkets in the refrigerator section. They can be called "steamed chow mein", "chow mein pan fried noodles", "Hong Kong style pan fried noodles", "Chinese style chow mein noodles", etc. Basically, they are thin fresh wheat noodles that have been parboiled and are ready for stir-frying for chow mein.
In places like Hong Kong, these noodles can be found sold loose in the wet markets.
- If you cannot find steamed fresh chow mein noodles, you can also use shelf-stable dry Chinese style egg noodles. These should only be cooked long enough for the noodles to loosen, about 1-2 minutes, and then rinsed thoroughly in cold water to stop the cooking process.
- You can substitute the BBQ pork with chicken, beef, or shrimp.
- For a vegetarian version, omit the BBQ pork or substitute it with other vegetables!
- If you substitute the BBQ pork with a different protein or with vegetables, you may have to adjust the sauce to compensate for the flavor you would be missing from the pork. You could also marinate the chicken, beef, or shrimp before cooking it with the noodles.
- The chow mein freezes well! Store in a ziploc bag in the freezer and simple reheat in the wok or microwave for a quick meal!
If you make this dish, share your photo on Facebook or Instagram and tag me @dayinthekitchen!
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I have made this at least 3 times and very pleased with the result.
Thanks so much, Ernest! I'm so glad that this is a repeat recipe for you!
Do they make gluten free chow mein noodles? Looks so good....
Hi Deb! I am not personally aware of any gluten-free chow mein noodles, but that doesn't necessarily mean they don't exist. You could substitute, perhaps, with a gluten-free pasta noodle...it wouldn't be exactly the same, but it might still work. Thanks for the question!
Can it be made with beef, chicken or shrimp? I don't eat pork and no other meat substitution was mentioned. Thank you!
Yes, absolutely, Fauzia! You can substitute any protein for the bbq pork. You may have to adjust the amount of sauce ingredients to compensate as the bbq pork adds flavor of the chow mein. Thanks for the question. I will update the notes in the recipe to reflect substituting the pork.