Chow mein and chow fun are two dishes you’ve probably seen on the menu of your favorite Chinese restaurant. Because of their similar names, these noodle dishes are often confused with one another.
However, chow mein and chow fun are actually quite different, the main difference being the shape and size of the noodles used to make each dish.
To make matters more confusing, though, there is also a dish known as chow mein fun. So, what is the difference between chow mein vs chow fun, and what is chow mein fun? Let’s find out now!
Chow Mein: What Is It?
Chow mein is often considered a Westernized variation of Chinese cuisine, but the dish did not originate in America, as many people think. In fact, chow mein is an authentic Chinese dish that gets its name from the words ‘chau meing’, which is Taishanese.
Chow mein was invented in Taisha, a Northern Chinese city not far from the Pearl River delta. It’s a dish based around egg noodles, which also contain water and wheat flour.
The dish was created many centuries ago, but only became popular in America in the mid-19th century.
Overall, chow mein is probably the most popular Chinese noodle dish. Most people are familiar with chow mein noodles and know them as looking like thinner pieces of spaghetti.
All About Chow Fun
While chow mein is most popular in Northern China, chow fun enjoys more popularity in the South. It was originally invented in a subdistrict called Shahe, which is in Guangzhou.
It is thought that the dish came into existence during the Second World War.
Chow fun noodles are not made out of eggs like chow mein. Instead, they are made from rice flour. You can purchase them either fresh or dried, which is convenient, but if you purchase the dried variety, you’ll need to soak the noodles before they can be fried in oil.
Chow Mein Vs Chow Fun
From the origins and basic ingredients used to make chow mein and chow fun, you can already get a sense for how these two types of noodles are quite different. However, taking a closer look reveals just how different they actually are from one another.
Here are the main differences between chow mein and chow fun that you’ll need to remember if you ever have to choose between these noodles:
At A Glance
The first major difference between chow mein and chow fun is simply that they look different. As we mentioned earlier, chow mein looks like a thinner type of spaghetti.
However, chow fun noodles are much thicker. They are thick and flat, as opposed to thin and round.
Additionally, chow mein and chow fun noodles are different colors. While chow mein noodles have a yellow tinge, chow fun noodles are white.
Chow mein and chow fun continue to look even more different from one another as you add the traditional ingredients to each type of noodle.
For instance, chow fun is usually topped with slices of marinated beef and some bean sprouts. When cooked and served with these ingredients, chow fun noodles tend to look greasy because they’re too wide to get crispy during the frying process.
Meanwhile, chow mein noodles look crispier and are served with vegetables, meat, or both.
As you can imagine, considering that they are made with different primary ingredients, chow mein and chow fun noodles taste different, even when you don’t factor in the different sauces and ingredients you can add.
Unsurprisingly, chow mein tastes pasta-like due to the egg in the recipe, whereas chow fun tastes more like rice.
When cooked, chow fun usually tastes smoky because they are dry-fried in a wok. Chow mein will only taste smoky if it has been charred, which is something chefs sometimes do to add more flavor.
The nutritional content of chow mein vs chow fun is another factor to bear in mind if you’re trying to decide which of these noodles to eat.
The first thing to remember is that chow fun contains more calories. On the other hand, chow mein is higher in fat as well as protein.
Uncooked chow mein usually contains 167 calories per 100 grams, whereas the same portion of chow fun contains 135 calories.
Rice noodles like chow fun don’t contain any gluten, so if you have a gluten sensitivity or allergy, this will definitely be the better choice for you. However, always check that the sauce used to prepare the noodles doesn’t contain any wheat.
Both chow fun and chow mein can be made more nutritious by adding protein sources and vegetables.
Chow Mein Fun
Now we know the differences between chow mein and chow fun. But what is chow mein fun?
Unlike either of the two dishes discussed above, chow mein fun is not an authentic Chinese dish. It is a Westernized take on Chinese cuisine that uses chow mein noodles, but boils them rather than frying them. This means that chow mein fun is, in fact, a lo mein dish.
All you need to make chow mein fun is:
- Chow mein noodles
- Chicken breast
- Chicken bouillon powder (½ tbsp)
- Chopped garlic
- Chopped ginger
- Soy sauce (3 tbsp)
- Oyster sauce (2 tbsp)
- Sesame oil
- Diluted dark and light soy sauce
- Julienned vegetables
Then, to prepare the dish, just follow these instructions:
- Start by preparing your chicken. Marinate the meat in soy sauce, black pepper, and salt. You can add the ginger and garlic at this point.
- Add the noodles to boiling water and cook them until they are still slightly al dente. Make sure the noodles don’t continue to cook by placing the base of the pot in some cold water.
- Add some oil to a wok and fry your marinated chicken. Wait until the chicken is fully cooked before adding the vegetables and continuing to fry for a few minutes.
- Finally, transfer your noodles to the wok and allow a couple more minutes while you add the rest of the seasoning for extra flavor.
Chow mein and chow fun might be confused often, but they’re quite different, coming from different places in China and containing different ingredients and nutrients. They look different and have individual textures.
Neither chow mein or chow fun should be confused with chow mein fun, which is not an authentic Chinese dish and is actually a type of lo mein.
Remember, if you can’t eat gluten, you should avoid chow mein, since it is made with wheat flour. Chow fun should be gluten-free as long as the sauce does not contain wheat.