Ready in just 30 minutes, this Chinese pork chow mein recipe will definitely become a favorite! Pan fried chow mein noodles, juicy pork slices and crispy mung bean sprouts will make this authentic Cantonese style dish a weeknight dinner staple you’ll love.
What is Chinese Pork Chow Mein?
Chinese pork chow mein is pronounced “yuk see chow mein” (肉絲炒麵) in Cantonese and literally translated to “pork threads with stir fried noodles”. This is a classic dish and probably the most famous aside from Cantonese chow mein. I’ve eaten this dish all my life and it’s a humble dish to be served by itself or with congee and sautéed vegetables.
Key Ingredients in Pork Chow Mein
Traditional pork chow mein is a simplistic dish with only a few ingredients. However, there are many variations using different ingredients such as chow mein with shiitake mushrooms.
Chow Mein Noodles (a.k.a. Chinese Egg Noodles)
Most North American Chinese restaurants serve chow mein noodles very crispy deep fried (like a cake or nest), but traditional chow mein is actually stir fried in light oil. The noodles are springy and firm and slightly crispy. By quickly blanching for less than a minute and stir frying is how chow mein is prepared in most Chinese homes. I personally ate it this way growing up and it is a healthier alternative!
Thinly Sliced Pork
Different types of pork can be used to make pork chow mein. I recommend using a lean cut of pork such as loin or butt or even char sui! Just make sure it is thinly sliced – at most ¼ inch. For this recipe, I use pork tenderloin for the low fat and tender texture.
Mung Bean Sprouts
Crunchy mung bean sprouts give an essential contrasting texture to this dish. You can add other vegetables to this dish if you’d like. I also include carrots in this recipe for added color and sweetness (plus any way to make my kids eat more vegetables). Traditionally, carrots aren’t included so feel free to leave them out if you want a real authentic dish.
Chow Mein Sauce
My Chinese “brown sauce” pulls this dish together. Not specific to chow mein, this base stir fry sauce is universal for a lot of Cantonese dishes. The sauce briefly cooks the bean sprouts and coats the rest of the ingredients before pouring on top of the noodles. Delicious!
- Don’t overcook the chow mein noodles: Don’t blanch the noodles for more than 30-40 seconds. It’s better to undercook them than overcook them. Rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process while you prepare the rest of the dish.
- Cut pork tenderloin thin for fast frying: Make sure the pork is cut thin (approx. ¼ inches) for a quick fry in the wok. Flash fry the pork by itself is what gives a nice succulent texture.
- Baking soda tenderizes the pork: Add a bit of baking soda to give the signature Chinese restaurant stir fry tender texture. Feel free to leave it out if you want.
- Use the same wok/pan for cooking the entire dish: Stir fry the noodles and the rest of the ingredients in the same wok/pan. Making the sauce at the end in the same pan will deliver a more flavourful sauce.
- Stir fry noodles for a crispier texture: Stir frying the noodles gives the wok essence (“wok hei”) to this dish. If you’re short on time, you can just boil the noodles and mix it in the stir fry sauce and ingredients after. The dish unfortunately, will lack that slightly crispy texture and starts to resemble lo mein (see FAQ).
- Wok vs Non-Stick Pan: A wok with high heat is ideal for cooking this dish but a non-stick pan also works. It actually will prevent the noodles from sticking. Make sure your non-stick pan can withstand medium/high heat to get a good sear on the pork slices and onions.
- Have all ingredients ready to go: Prep all the ingredients before you heat your wok/pan. This dish cooks fast!
How to Make Pork Chow Mein
Follow these step by step instructions. Everything should be cooked in the same wok or pan!
Marinate the Pork Tenderloin
- Cut the pork tenderloin lengthwise and into ¼ inch strips against the grain.
- Marinate with soy sauce, corn starch, baking soda, wine and sugar. Salt to taste.
Blanch and Stir Fry the Chow Mein Noodles
- Blanch the chow mein noodles in boiling water for 30-40 seconds and rinse under cold water.
- Stir fry the noodles in a wok with oil, soy sauce and sesame oil. If the noodles stick to the pan, add a bit more oil and lower the heat. Place finished noodles on a serving plate.
Stir Fry the Carrots and Onions
- Stir fry the julienned carrots first to soften them (about 2-3 minutes)
- Add the sliced white onions and cook until starting to soften.
- Add green onions and cook for a minute. Set aside.
Flash Fry the Pork Tenderloin
- Add minced garlic and saute until fragrant (about 30 seconds)
- Add the pork tenderloin and cook for a minute. When it starts to change color, add the Shaoxing wine. It’s ok if it sticks to the pan a bit.
- Cook until the pork has changed color completely and set aside.
Make the Chow Mein Sauce and Finish the Dish
- The wok should have some wonderful brown bits at the bottom. This is flavour! In your still hot wok, add minced garlic and ginger and sauté till fragrant.
- Pour in the broth, soy sauce, oyster sauce, Shaoxing wine and sugar and mix. Bring to a boil.
- Put in the mung bean sprouts and bring to a simmer again.
- Include the rest of the cooked ingredients (carrots, onions and pork) into the pan and toss.
- Add half the cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce. Add more if needed.
- Pour over noodles and enjoy!
Pork chow mein is best served immediately while it’s still hot. Pair it with a plate of stir fried vegetables for an easy and healthy family meal. Include a few side sauces to spice things up. I usually have one or all three at the table:
- Sirarcha hot sauce – for spicy heat
- Satay dipping sauce – for spice and smokiness
- Red vinegar – for a bit of acid to wake up the taste buds
Storing and Reheating Tips
Store leftover pork chow mein in an airtight container for 1-2 days. The noodles reheat well but will be softer and less springy.
Use wonton noodles if you cannot find chow mein noodles. They are very similar actually, wonton noodles are usually a paler shade of yellow. Prepare them the same way with a quick blanch, run under cold water and dry thoroughly.
You can add extra soy sauce in place of the oyster sauce. Check out my brown sauce recipe for other alternatives.
Any Chinese rice wine or dry sherry will work fine.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Chow mein can be found in most Asian grocery stores in the refrigerated fresh noodle section. In some countries, chow mein noodles are called Hong Kong style pan fried noodles, which means they’ve been parboiled and ready to pan fry right out of the package. The ones I get in Canada are called steamed egg noodles which require blanching first. Make sure you read the package instructions first.
Chow mein isn’t the same as lo mein. Chow mein noodles have a more distinct yellow color and lo mein can sometimes be a thicker noodle (although I’ve seen ones as thin as chow mein noodles too).
Both noodles are egg noodles with a wheat base. The biggest differentiation is how they are cooked. Chow mein is usually fried in a wok (“chow” means fried) with meat and/or vegetables.
Lo mein is usually boiled and served with dumplings, vegetables or roasted meats along with a simple sauce. “Lo” means “mixed” and you mix the sauce with the noodles and other ingredients.
Unfortunately this is very difficult to fix. It’s like overcooking pasta for an Italian 🙁 If you blanched them too long, rinse under cold water to salvage it. Toss in the soy sauce and sesame oil.
Once the other ingredients are cooked I’d mix in the noodles to heat them back up but minimize any more cooking time. Tell your dinner guests it’s lo mein instead…
Pork Chow Mein with Bean Sprouts
- carbon steel wok or non stick fry pan
- pot for blanching
For Pork Marinade
- ½ lb pork tenderloin (or pork loin)
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- ¼ tsp baking soda (optional)
- 1 Tbsp. Shaoxing wine
- 2 tsp brown sugar or white sugar
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- salt to taste
For Main Dish
- 15 ounces chow mein noodles (see Note 1)
- 1 small white onion (thinly sliced)
- 1 small carrot (cut into matchsticks i.e. julienned)
- 2-3 scallions (cut lengthwise and into 2 inch sections)
- 6 cups mung bean sprouts (rinsed and drained)
- 2 tsp garlic (approx. 2 cloves) (minced)
- 4 tsp light soy sauce (divided)
- 2 tsp sesame oil (divided)
- 4 Tbsp. grapeseed oil (divided) or other neutral oil
- 2 Tbsp. Shaoxing wine
- salt to taste
For Chow Mein Sauce
- 1 tsp grapeseed oil or other neutral oil
- 1/2 tsp ginger (grated or minced)
- 1 tsp garlic (approx. 1 clove) (minced)
- 1 cup unsalted chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 2 Tbsp. Shaoxing wine
- 1 Tbsp. light soy sauce
- 2 tsp. oyster sauce
- 1 Tbsp. brown sugar or white sugar
- 2 Tbsp. cornstarch (mixed with 4 Tbsp. water to make a slurry)
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 2 tsp Sriracha or chilli flakes (optional)
Prepare and Marinate the Pork
- Slice the pork tenderloin in half lengthwise and cut into ¼ slices against the grain (see pictures above)
- Place the pork slices into a mixing bowl and add soy sauce, baking soda, Shaoxing wine, sugar and salt. Mix thoroughly.
- Add the cornstarch. Toss to coat and set aside to marinate.
Blanche and Stir Fry Chow Mein Noodles
- Bring 6 cups of water to a boil and blanch the chow mein noodles for 30-40 seconds. Drain and rinse the noodles under cold water. Shake the noodles to get rid of any excess water and blot with paper towels to get them as dry as possible (Note 2)
- Heat a wok on medium/high heat and then add 1 Tbsp of oil. Add half the chow mein noodles, 2 tsp soy sauce and 1 tsp of sesame oil. Stir fry the noodles for a few minutes to crisp up and set aside.
- Repeat for the other half of the noodles. Place finished noodles on your serving plate. (See Note 3)
Stir Fry the Ingredients
- Turn on to medium/high heat. Add 1 Tbsp of oil into the same heated wok. Add the carrots and fry them for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the onions and fry for a few minutes until they start to get a bit translucent. Add a bit of salt. Lower the heat to medium if the wok is too hot and browning too quickly.
- Add the scallions and cook for another minute. The carrots and onions should still be crispy. Set aside.
- On medium/high heat, add another 1 Tbsp of oil and add the minced garlic. Sautee for 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Add the pork tenderloin slices and cook until they start to change color – about 2 minutes. Add the Shaoxing wine to loosen up the pork slices on the wok. Remove the pork from the pan once it has completely changed color. Set aside.
Make the Chow Mein Sauce and Finish the Dish
- On medium heat, add the oil, garlic and ginger to the same pan. Sauté until fragrant. (Note 4)
- Add the broth, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, oyster sauce, brown sugar and Sriracha or chilli flakes (if using). Stir and bring to a boil.
- Add the mung bean sprouts and cook for 2-3 minutes until they are slightly translucent but still firm.
- Add back the onions, carrots, green onions and pork to the mixture and toss for 30 seconds.
- Add half the cornstarch slurry and mix for 30 seconds. Check the consistency and if it’s still too watery, add more slurry until desired consistency. Stir in the sesame oil. (Note 5)
- Pour your stir fry mixture onto the chow mein noodles. Serve immediately!