Chow mein is a Chinese dish that is mainly made from egg noodles combined with sautéed meat or chicken, vegetables, and a soy-based sauce. The noodles, traditionally referred to as chow mein noodles, are short and often lightly fried to impart a crispy texture to the dish. One common version of the recipe is beef chow mein, which tends to consist of sautéed beef and vegetables that are tossed in a thick brown soy-based sauce and served with the fried chow mein noodles.
Chow mein noodles are usually the main ingredient that is called for in beef chow mein, while the other recommended ingredients may vary. A boneless cut of beef, such as sirloin or flank steak, is generally used when making beef chow mein; however, recipes may occasionally call for ground beef. Although the vegetables may vary depending on the recipe and personal preference, one common combination is celery, onions, and mushrooms. The sauce for the dish typically uses soy sauce combined with another liquid, such as broth or wine, along with other Asian condiments like oyster sauce, a soy and oyster brine sauce, or hoisin sauce, which is made from soy sauce and vinegar.
All of the ingredients in beef chow mein ingredients are usually prepared in advance before the cooking process starts. Each ingredient is cooked separately, but for a short period of time, so there may not be time to prepare the ingredients to follow the ones that are already cooking. Recipes usually advise cutting each ingredient into similarly sized pieces to ensure even cooking.
Chow mein noodles may be boiled until soft and then used as is in beef chow mein, but it tends to be more common for them to be lightly fried in oil until brown and crispy. The beef and preferred vegetables are typically each separately sautéed in oil on the stovetop. The brown sauce ingredients are usually combined in a bowl, and then added to a large pan with the cooked beef and vegetables. If a thinner sauce is desired, the ingredients may simply be stirred until the sauce coats everything and then served. For a thicker sauce, it is often advised to let the ingredients cook in the sauce until the heat results in the desired sauce thickness.
Beef chow mein should be served hot, immediately after cooking. The beef, vegetable, and sauce mixture is typically spooned on top of the fried chow mein noodles, rather than mixing them all together, to keep the crispy texture of the noodles. The dish may be accompanied with Asian condiments such as additional soy sauce or red chili sauce.