Crispy chow mein noodles topped with meat and vegetables in a delicious gravy is a Chinese dish you're going to love! And instead of pan-frying the noodles, they're made crisp in the oven!
You should know by now that I love noodles. LOVE them.
And one of my favorite ways to enjoy them is in this crispy chow mein recipe, inspired by how my dad used to make it for us!
It is a delicious combination of noodles that have crispness and chew at the same time, topped with a beefy vegetable saucy topping that is full of flavor, and I'm so excited to finally share this on the blog!
How to Make the Noodles Crispy
Traditionally, and as my dad had always done it, the noodles are pan-fried in oil to make them crispy. Even though pan-frying them makes them so good, I was never a fan of cooking with that much oil.
It also made cooking chow mein for more than one person a challenge because the noodles would have to be cooked in batches which would take forever (an exaggeration, but you get the point).
So I came up with the idea of baking the noodles. I could bake a large quantity at once on a sheet pan and still achieve a level of crispiness on the noodles without using a whole lot of oil. Perfect!
Start with fresh dry chow mein noodles that are usually found in the refrigerator section at your Asian market. Here in Hong Kong, I buy them in loose bundles (as shown below) at a noodle stall at the wet market. If you can't find fresh/refrigerated noodles, you can also use the packaged dried egg noodles (found in the pantry aisle with all the other dried noodles).
Boil the noodles just until the noodles are separated and then drain them and rinse them in cool water to stop the cooking process.
Drain the noodles well, shaking as much water out of the colander as you can, then cut through the noodles a couple of times with kitchen shears so the noodles are easier to handle. Mix them with some oil and salt before transferring them to a greased baking sheet. Let them crisp up in a 450F/230C oven for about 20-30 minutes until they are lightly browned.
The noodles will not be completely crispy throughout, but that's okay! You'll have crispy noodles on top, bottom, and edges.
The Beef and Vegetable Topping
I like to use a tender cut of beef like rib eye or sirloin, sliced thin, and combine it with a quick cooking vegetable like sugar snap peas.
The aromatics for the toppings is simply chopped onions and scallions. The sauce is made up of beef broth (chicken or vegetable broth is okay), oyster sauce, soy sauce/tamari, honey, sesame oil, and white pepper.
Start by sauteeing the onions and the whites of the scallions for about a minute before adding in the beef. Stir-fry until the beef is done about halfway.
Then it's time for the vegetables, the sauce mixture, and then a slurry of tapioca starch and broth or water to help thicken the sauce into a nice gravy.
Transfer your crispy chow mein noodles to a serving plate and top with the meat and vegetable sauce. Make sure to leave a border of noodles uncovered by the gravy so you get to enjoy the crispness!
Commonly Asked Questions
You want to use regular wheat chow mein noodles for this recipe. Fresh chow mein noodles can be purchased in packages in the refrigerator section of your Asian market and are sometimes called Hong Kong chow mein noodles. You can also use dried egg noodles, found in packages in the pantry section of your Asian market. Fatter wheat-based noodles can work, but this dish is meant to use thin chow mein noodles.
Use chicken or shrimp, or make it vegetarian. Chinese/shiitake mushrooms would be a great substitution because of their meaty texture and for the umami they would add to the dish.
Vegetables that cook quickly work best. Sugar snap peas, snow peas, bok choy, choi sum, bean sprouts, sliced bell peppers, etc. are all good options. Stalky vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower would work best if parboiled before adding to the pan to make sure they are cooked properly.
Chicken broth or vegetable broth can be substituted for the beef broth. You can also use water, but you will need to adjust the sauce seasonings to compensate for the lack of flavor in the water. Be sure to taste the gravy and adjust as necessary before ladling over the noodles.
Tapioca starch can be replaced with cornstarch.
Unfortunately, you can't get the same crispy noodle texture by using gluten-free noodles like rice noodles. You can deep fry rice vermicelli noodles to make them crisp, but they will be puffed and won't have the same chew as regular chow mein noodles and it will just be a completely different eating experience.
If you don't care about the crispy noodle factor, the meat and vegetable gravy can be served over boiled gluten-free noodles and it can become a "wet" chow mein.
The crispy chow mein is best eaten when it is made. If you have leftovers, though, the noodles won't reheat crispy again because of the gravy...but that's okay, too! Simply reheat the chow mein in the microwave. Any crispy noodles that aren't covered in sauce will simply be more dry than those that are.
This type of chow mein that is sometimes referred to as Hong Kong style chow mein or simply crispy noodle chow mein. As I mentioned above, it's how my dad would often make it for us when I was younger.
Whenever he'd start gathering the ingredients, I would get SO excited. I'd watch him fry the noodles and cook the beef and veggies. He would make individual servings and we'd each get out own plate...and he wouldn't just pour the sauce on the noodles...he would carefully drizzle it over (with just a regular ol' tablespoon) until he felt there was just the right amount.
And when I finally did get to dig in, I ate every. last. bit.
Now that I make this for my family, they absolutely love it and we can easily polish off the entire dish as a meal with no leftovers!
It also seems chow mein runs in my family since I also have my mom's BBQ Pork Chow Mein recipe that is worth checking out! It's a stir-fried chow mein recipe and not crispy, but still oh-so-good in its own right!
So if you love noodles like I do, and you love a good chow mein, give this crispy chow mein noodle recipe a try. It's another dish from my culture and my childhood that I'm excited to share with you, and I'm sure you're going to love it!
Crispy Chow Mein Noodles
- ¾ lb. fresh chow mein noodles
- 3 tablespoons neutral flavored oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ lb. rib-eye or sirloin steak, sliced thin
- 2 teaspoons tapioca starch (cornstarch okay)
- ½ onion, cut into chunks
- 2 stalks green onions, whites separated from greens, cut into 1-inch lengths
- ¼ lb. sugar snap peas (or leafy vegetables)
- Preheat oven 450F/230C.
- Boil chow mein noodles until noodles have just loosened. Drain and rinse under cool water; drain well.
- Make a couple of cuts through the noodles with kitchen shears.
- Mix noodles with oil and salt, then spread noodles evenly on a greased baking sheet.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes until noodles are crispy and golden. (See notes below)
- Combine all gravy ingredients (beef broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce/tamari, honey, sesame oil, and white pepper) in a measuring cup and mix well. Set aside.
- Mix beef slices with tapioca starch.
- In a skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add onion chunks and scallion whites to the pan. Saute for about 1 minute.
- Add beef to the pan and fry until about halfway done.
- Add sugar snap peas to the pan and cook about 1 minute.
- Stir sauce mixture before adding it to the pan. Bring mixture to a simmer.
- Add scallion greens to the pan.
- In a small bowl, mix together the tapioca starch and broth/water (thickening slurry). Add it to the sauce in the pan and stir well.
- Transfer crispy chow mein noodles to a serving dish and top with the meat and vegetables and gravy, leaving a ring of crispy noodles around the edge uncovered. Serve immediately.
- If noodles are done before you are ready with the gravy, keep them warm in the oven at 350F/180C until you are ready to plate.
- If you choose to make it meatless, try it with Chinese, or shiitake mushrooms which are not only "meaty", but they're packed with umami for flavor.
- Beef broth can be substituted with chicken or vegetable broth.
- If you have a convection feature on your oven, reduce the oven temperature to 425F/220C. A convection oven will definitely help crisp the noodles faster.
- Tapioca starch can be substituted with cornstarch.
- If you are making a single serving of the recipe, you can pan-fry the noodles in oil in a cast iron or non-stick pan to make them crispy.