Friday Random Recipe: Spicy Chicken Lo Mein

Lo Mein is one of the staples of Chinese restaurants in the US. In general, it's not bad,
but it's a bit greasy, and a bit bland. This version of it is closer to authentic, and has
a really nice kick.

The heat comes from a sauce called Sambal. Sambal is the vietnamese name, but Chinese make
it too, and call it chili-vinegar sauce. It's basically a ton of fresh chilis - the variety that
we call Thai bird chilis - pounded in a mortar and pestle until it forms a loose sauce, roughly the consistency of a thin ketchup.

You really need to go to a Chinese grocery for the noodles. The chinese egg noodles have a different consistency and flavor than any Italian pasta. To prepare them, you get some water boiling, toss the
noodles in for just one or two minutes, and then take them out and rinse with cold water to cool them, and toss them with just enough oil to stop them from sticking together.


  • 1 pound fresh lo mein noodles, flash-boiled, then cooled and tossed with
    canola oil.
  • 2 chicken thighs, bones and skins removed, then shredded.
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced very thin.
  • Soy sauce.
  • Rice wine or vodka
  • 1/2 pound fresh bean sprouts.
  • Oyster sauce.
  • Sambal/chili and vinegar paste
  • About half a head of napa cabbage, shredded into strips about 1/2 inch wide.
  • A bunch of scallions, green parts cut into small rings. (Discard the whites.)


  • Take the shredded chicken, and toss with enough soy sauce and vodka to just barely
    cover it. Let it marinate for 5-10 minutes, and drain.
  • Heat a wok on high heat. When it gets smoking hot, add oil, and then stir fry the chicken until it's
    browned. Then remove the chicken from the wok.
  • When the wok is smoking hot again, add some oil, and then the onions. Stir fry quickly - the onions
    should start to turn a little brown on the outside, but not be fully cooked through.
  • Add the bean sprouts, and stir-fry for about 30 seconds.
  • Add the cabbage, and stir fry until it wilts.
  • Re-add the chicken, and also add the noodles, and cook for a minute or two.
  • Add a couple of tablespoons of oyster sauce, and a heaping teaspoon of sambal, and
    cook until the noodles are hot.
  • Add the scallions, give it a last stir, and remove it from the heat to a serving bowl.

It should only take about 5 minutes to cook, once everything is prepared. With prep time,
it's about 1/2 hour, start to finish.


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Sounds delicious, but you are discarding the quintessential Chinese part, namely the bone splinters. I go to China several times a year and am known as an adventurous eater, but one thing that always astounds me is the amount of small bone fragments from hacking most of the larger meats up with a cleaver. I have a theory that the Han Chinese never had to metabolize milk products because they get all their calcium requirement from bone bits. Last month I had a classic Sichuan dish, braised duck heads, split fore to aft through the top of the skull. When the dish came I wondered whether it was crabs from the look of the smooth crania and the spikes of the bone inside the beak. Not much meat on a duck head, but tasty enough. BTW, when I first went to China in the early 80's, the food was godawful, but within a few years it improved mightily as people were allowed to set up private restaurants, and now the food is pretty good generally to absolutely glorious.

Cold noodles with hot (spicy) oil! My very favorite lunch in Oklahoma years ago at a Vietnamese lunch counter.

How is it without the oyster sauce, since unfortunately I'm allergic to oysters? (I'm also frankly a big fan of letting the major ingredients of individual dishes stand out with their natural flavors, so I would likely go very easy on the soy sauce as well.)


There's an excellent chinese mushroom sauce, sometimes labeled as "vegetarian oyster sauce", which is excellent. It's not really a substitute for oyster sauce - it's flavor is quite different, but it tends to complement the same things as oyster sauce. It's really wonderful stuff. It works wonderfully in this dish.

WRT the soy sauce - you really don't use much of it in this recipe, and most of what you put in gets drained out. But it's a necessary step. The chicken really needs a bit of salt to bring out its flavor. A bit of soy sauce in the marinate will tenderize the chicken, and give it the little bit of salt that it needs.

Small point just to clarify...sambal is an Indonesian chili condiment. The Vietnamese certainly have their variants, but sambal (e.g. sambla oelek) itself is Indonesian, but widely used in Malasia, Phillipines, the Netherlands etc.

I'm digging the cooking posts: for me, much more satisfyingly substantial than the math (which is great too). I'm going to try making this tonight.

Mark, thanks for the tip re the mushroom sauce - I should be able to find it at the grocery, which has good ethnic foods sections.

Re salt for the chicken, I wonder whether the fact that kosher chicken has already been brined as a part of the koshering process would result in less need for soy.


Yes, the prior brining of the chicken would have a big impact. The problem is, it also changes the flavor - marinating in soy and rice wine gives the chicken a particular flavor and texture which simple brining won't. Brining will also probably make the chicken quite a bit saltier than the quick soy/wine marinade.