Two BIG Reasons Why Homemade Chicken Chow Mein Is Never What You Expect

Posted on: 13 January 2016


There is a big reason why chicken chow mein is found on the menu of just about every Chinese food eatery you can track down: This is one delectable dish that almost always seemed to be prepared to perfection. With mouth-watering cutlets of chicken, fresh and crisp veggies, and noodles that have absorbed all of the mingling flavors of the dish, Chicken chow mein is one of those favorite oriental-style foods that is bound to have you skipping off to your local chef supply store to invest in a good wok.

Unfortunately, no matter how good of a recipe you find and how hard you try, there is little chance that the end result will be even half as pleasing as that dish you obsessively order at your favorite restaurant. There are two logical explanations as to why that is the case. 

Your wok is lacking in something quite important...breath!

Woks that have been in use in a restaurant setting have been the preparation dish for probably hundreds of other meals before yours. So by the time the ingredients for that famed chicken chow mein land inside, the pan has had the opportunity to absorb seasoning and oils from many other foods. Even though the pan is always clean, some of the residue is almost impossible to eliminate and does contribute to every dish that is prepared inside down the road. Every good wok has what is known as wok hei, or wok breath, and this is something that a new wok will not have at all. You can season your wok, but obtaining even a close resemblance to the breath of a well-used restaurant wok will be pretty near impossible. 

Tumbling is a chef-worthy art you are yet to perfect.

Ever watched your chicken chow mein being prepared at a Chinese restaurant? The chef tosses and shimmies the ingredients in the pan almost monotonously and without any effort. Tumbling food in a wok is a skill that can take years of experience to perfect and can definitely be hard to replicate at home. Tumbling perfectly rotates the ingredients in the pan so that no one food gets more cooked than the other and there is no idle time where dense particles are allowed to get more saturated or hot than any other. This means that every last morsel of chicken, veggie, or pasta is flash cooked and retains as much natural flavor as possible.