Panda Express Chow Mein is one of their most requested side dishes. You can make your own copycat Panda Express Chow Mein at home and when you do, it tastes even better than it does in the restaurant. Best of all this is an easy chow mein recipe for you to follow.
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Recreating the Authentic Taste of Panda Express Chow Mein at Home
Chow mein is a relatively simple recipe, but it does require using a few techniques and ingredients American cooks may not know. Don’t let that scare you off.
Making chow mein at home isn’t difficult; it is just different. Don’t worry, I am going to walk you through this Panda Express Chow Mein copycat recipe. I will even share a few ideas for you to make this a complete meal.
Why This Copycat Recipe for Panda Express Chow Mein Is the One You Must Try
Cooking Chinese food at home is difficult. Between the unfamiliar ingredients and techniques, it is easy to feel intimidated. This Panda Express Chow Mein recipe is a simple introduction to Chinese cooking and does an excellent job at mimicking the flavor of the restaurant’s dish.
Other versions of this recipe that you find online have overly sweet and thick sauce or additional ingredients that are not in the original menu item.
Which noodles are used for chow mein?
The one ingredient that can make or break your homemade chow mein is the type of noodles you choose. Proper chow mein noodles are soft and springy, even after frying. This consistency is only possible because real chow mein noodles contain potassium/sodium carbonate or sodium bicarbonate.
Unfortunately, ordinary Italian spaghetti just won’t work for this recipe.
Dried chow mein noodles are available in the ethnic section of most major supermarkets. However, if you can’t find them, you can use noodles labeled yakisoba. Yakisoba is a thinner, Japanese version of Chinese chow mein noodles.
Are Chow Mein and Ramen Noodles the Same?
No. chow mein and ramen noodles are not the same. Chow mein noodles are Chinese-style egg noodles made with wheat, salt, and water. Ramen noodles are also wheat-based and have salt and water, but they do not have any eggs. In addition, ramen noodles contain kansui, a kind of mineral water sometimes called “lye water.” It is kansui that gives ramen its unique texture and color.
For the same flavor and texture of the Panda Express noodles that you love at the restaurant, you must use Chinese egg noodles in this recipe.
Panda Express Chow Mein Ingredients
Here’s a list of what you need to make this chow mein recipe:
- Soy sauce
- Cooking wine
- Oyster sauce
- Hoisin sauce
- Garlic clove
- Fresh ginger
- Green onions
- Sesame oil
- Lo mein or Yakisoba noodles
- Cooking oil (vegetable, olive oil, or oil of your choice)
- Napa cabbage
- White onion
This dish is has a lovely Asian sauce. You can find the ingredients to make the sauce at your local grocery store. Any store with a tiny Asian section will have these ingredients. This recipe makes a delicious lo mein sauce that you will love in any stir fry recipe.
Two Must-Have Ingredients for Chow Mein Sauce
Two less commonly known ingredients that go into the chow mein sauce recipe are oyster sauce and hoisin sauce.
- Oyster sauce is a slightly sweeter version of soy sauce, and it does contain oysters. An excellent vegetarian substitute is mushroom-based soy sauce.
- Hoisin sauce is a thick and salty, bean-based sauce. It adds a unique flavor to chow mein, but in a pinch, you can substitute teriyaki sauce.
Both oyster sauce and hoisin sauce are very popular sauces and are available from major brands like La Choy.
Best Wine for Chow Mein Sauce
We are going to use cooking wine and I like to pick this up in the Asian section of my store. If you don’t have that on hand, a dry Sherry will work.
Where to Find the Noodles
If you live in a large metropolitan area you can find lo mein noodles in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. Many large grocery stores carry these noodles. I went to my Asian market to get mine, they are inexpensive, and they make a large amount if you use the whole bag.
If you can’t find fresh noodles there is a dry variety, Yakisoba that will work well. I don’t suggest using pasta noodles, you really need this type of noodle the wheat flour holds up better than the noodles in the Italian pasta.
Best Cabbage for Chow Mein
This recipe contains cabbage. If you have it available, I think the napa cabbage tastes better. If you don’t have it on hand, you can use regular green cabbage. It’s your choice but I think the napa is closer to what is served.
How to Make Chow Mein
Besides the proper ingredients, great chow mein requires knowing how to stir fry the correct way. The good news is that you don’t need a wok, but a heavy-bottom pan is necessary. A large cast-iron or steel skillet will help to retain and distribute heat evenly. So even if you won’t have a wok, be sure to use a large heavy skillet.
The secret to a great stir fry is high heat and not overcrowding the pan unless you want to wind up with steamed noodles. Depending on how much you are cooking and your pan’s size, you may have to stir fry in batches.
- In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, sugar, cooking wine, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, garlic, ginger, green onions, and sesame oil.
- Prepare noodles according to package directions. When noodles are done, drain them.
- Chop cabbage and slice the onion and celery.
- Heat cooking oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add onion and celery, and cook, stirring often, until tender.
- Stir in cabbage until heated through.
- Add noodles and 1/2 cup of sauce. Stir until well combined and the noodles are heated through.
- Serve immediately.
Make Your Own Panda Express Chow Mein Recipe
Once you master the basics of making chow mein, feel free to experiment. Use almost any fresh vegetables that you have on hand.
Some popular choices are shredded carrots, hearty greens, pea pods, bean sprouts, and broccoli. To make the dish even more hearty, add thinly sliced beef or chicken breast, shrimp, or tofu.
Tips For Panda Express Noodles
- Use an oil with a high smoke point. Neutral oils such as canola or grapeseed oil are good choices because they won’t impart any unwanted flavors to the dish. You can use slightly less oil if you want, but watch out for sticking.
- Serve it with style. Garnish with sliced scallion and sesame seeds for a restaurant-quality presentation
How to Store Leftover Chow Mein
If you can’t finish all of these stir-fry noodles, you can store them in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. I do not recommend freezing this homemade version of chow mein. I feel like the vegetables develop an undesired chewy texture.
I hope you give this recipe a try! There is nothing like being able to make your own homemade Chinese take-out at home. Soon you will be able to make one of Panda Express’ most popular recipes.
You can make fast food restaurants’ food at home at a fraction of the price of going out for dinner. Best of all you get to prepare delicious recipes for your family.
So sit down soon and enjoy delicious noodles recipes with your whole family. They are going to love how your chow mein tastes.
What Is the Difference Between Lo Mein and Chow Mein?
If you have ordered both of these noodles in a Chinese restaurant, you know that chow mein is a little crispy while lo mein is more supple. It is tempting to think that each recipe uses two completely different types of noodles, but that’s not true. Chow mein and lo mein use the same Chinese egg noodles, but there are significant differences in how cooks prepare the two dishes.
For lo mein, cooks choose fresh or only partially dry Chinese noodles and then boil them for a few minutes before tossing them with vegetables and a sauce. But for chow mein, Chinese cooks like to boil dried egg noodles, add them to the precooked vegetables, and finish everything with chow mein sauce in a hot wok.
What to Serve with This Chow Mein Panda Express Recipe
Chinese people eat chow mein as an alternative to white rice and not as the main course. While you can make a meal of it, it is nice to have a variety of dishes to enjoy. You can’t go wrong by pairing this dish with other Asian favorites, including:
But don’t feel like you can’t serve chow mien with other types of cuisine as well. Have fun and experiment. The following dishes are a good jumping-off point:
Chow Mein Panda Express FAQ
Does Panda Express Use Chicken Broth in Its Chow Mein Recipe?
Chicken broth used to be on the list of Panda Express Chow Mein ingredients. However, after an online petition, the company changed its recipe to be vegetarian-friendly.
The recipe below does not have chicken broth, but it calls for using oyster sauce that contains fish. If you want to make a vegetarian version of this dish, try using a fish-free oyster sauce.
Is Panda Express Chow Mein Actually Chow Mein?
Chow mein is a technique of cooking and not an actual dish. There are thousands of different recipes for sauce and combinations of ingredients, and good luck getting two Chinese cooks to agree on what is the most authentic.
While the Panda Express Chow Mein ingredients are not what they use in China, the cooking technique is very close to the xiaochao cooking method popular in Mainland China.
So, is Panda Express Chow Mein actually Chow Mein? Yes, it is.
What Are Skinny Chinese Noodles?
If you find yourself getting confused when it comes to remembering what kind of Italian pasta goes best with what type of sauce, don’t even try to get a handle on the huge variety of Asian noodles that exist. From different shapes to different ingredients, Asian noodles are incredibly complicated.
There are many kinds of “skinny noodles” in Asia. Perhaps the skinniest noodle is the type of wheat noodle called Mian Xian. However, there are many other thin noodles, such as Xi Mian, Dan Dan, Mi Fen, and the famous Dong Fen, or cellophane noodle.
Is Yakisoba the Same as Chow Mein?
Despite their similarities in appearance and cooking method, Chow Mein and Yakisoba are not the same dish with two different names. In fact, even the ingredients used to make the noodles are not the same.
Although chow mein and yakisoba noodles are both wheat-based, chow mein noodles add egg, while yakisoba noodles use kansui just like ramen noodles do.
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Panda Express Chow Mein
Lo Mein Sauce
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons cooking wine
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
- 1 garlic clove chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger minced
- 2 tablespoons green onions minced
- 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
Chow Mein Ingredients
- 14 ounces lo mein noodles or 2 packages of Yakisoba noodles (dry) prepared without seasoning packages
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil (use vegetable, olive oil, or oil of your choice)
- 2 cups napa cabbage sliced
- 1 large sliced white onion
- 3 celery stalks cut diagonally into 1/4 inch slices
- In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, sugar, cooking wine, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, garlic, ginger, green onions, and sesame oil; set aside.
- Prepare lo mein noodles by placing them in large pot of boiling water. Cook according to package directions. When noodles are done, drain and rinse them.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and celery, and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 3-4 minutes, the onions will begin to become translucent.
- Stir in cabbage until heated through, about 1 minute. Add noodles, and 1/2 cup of sauce, toss until well combined and the noodles are heated for about 2 minutes.
- Serve immediately.