Vegetable Lo Mein

I haven’t always been a huge fan of stir-fry, at least not in recent years. It used to be something I’d cook up occasionally, but it often yielded mixed results. I don’t think I ever did a good job developing the flavors, and I usually just relied on some sort of pre-made sauce that never really worked for me. So maybe it was just too easy for me to screw up?

But recently, a few things got me thinking about giving the stir-fry another shot. First, and as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not eating meat for lent, which provide a good opportunity to try out some new recipes and noodles came to mind. Second, back in January I saw a few instructional videos on Asian cuisine and using a wok from Michael Ruhlman’s former instructor and mentor at the Culinary Institute, Chef Mike Pardus. That’s some serious heat coming out of those burners.

The veggie lo mein I cooked up is loosely based on this recipe from Chef Ann Cooper. In this case, I changed up the veggies a little bit. But as with most stir-fry or noodle dishes, you can pick and choose the veggies and proteins you want to use. It turned out great.  Here’s the recipe and I’ve included a few of my thoughts a the end of the post.

Veggie Lo Mein
Serves 4

Vegetable oil
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
Red pepper flakes (optional)
1 red pepper, julienned
1 green pepper, julienned
2 carrots, julienned
1 TBSP fresh ginger, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts sliced diagonally to 1/2 inch
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 TBSPs soy sauce
3/4 lb lo mein noodles
Peanut oil

Fill a large pot with 6 cups of salted water and bring to a boil. Add the noodles and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Drain and toss with peanut oil – this will help prevent the noodles from sticking together too much.

Using a wok, add about 1 tablespoon of oil and bring the heat to medium-high. Add the onions and sauté for 3-5 minutes, or until lightly browned.  At this point, if you want to add some heat/spice to the dish, feel free add a small amount of red pepper flakes. Add the julienned carrots, sauté for 1-2 minutes, and then add the red and green peppers. Sauté for another 5 minutes or so, stirring often, until the veggies are slightly tender (I like my stir-fry veggies to have a bit of crunch, but if you like yours more tender, you might want to cook them a little longer). Add the ginger and garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes. If you want to have more fun sautéing, use a front to back motion to toss the veggies in the wok, like this:

Poorly taken action shot!

That’s probably the best part of using a wok. At this point, when you’re not flailing your wok around, it should look like this.

Turn the wok to low heat, add the noodles and stir together with the veggies. Mix the hoisin and soy sauce together in a separate bowl and add the mixture to the wok, stir until coated. That’s it, you’re done.

This is what your final product should look like:

A few thoughts. The dish ended up being a little heavy on the ginger, so I dialed it back a bit in the ingredient list above. But overall, this stir fry dish was a winner. It wasn’t bland, had well-developed flavors, and it was fun to make.

Another important take away when using a wok, heat is key. You want to be operating somewhere in between medium-high to high heat, but without going over the top. And you can’t let your guard down, or it will bite you – and burn your food. It will require you to work more quickly than you might normally, but to me, that made it all the more fun.

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