Tender noodles, crunchy vegetables and a delicious sesame flavoured sauce make this quick and easy vegetable lo mein one of the tastiest Chinese dishes around. Serve it plain as a side dish, or add your favourite protein for a complete meal-in-a bowl!
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What is ‘Vegetable Lo Mein’?
Vegetable Lo Mein is a Chinese dish, consisting of vegetables and soft noodles, cooked in a mildly spicy, sweet and sticky sauce. The vegetables are lightly steamed to retain their crispness, while the sticky sauce coats everything with a delicious combination of Asian flavours.
Lo Mein can be served plain as a side dish alongside your favourite Chinese meals such as sweet and sour chicken, or twice-cooked pork belly. If you prefer you can turn it into a complete meal in its own right by adding your choice of protein (normally chicken or prawns). You can even serve vegetable lo mein by itself as part of a Meatless Monday meal rotation.
It’s often confused with Chow Mein, which is a similar dish. The difference is, with Lo Mein the noodles are soft and tender, whereas with Chow Mein the noodles are deep fried and crispy.
Why I love Vegetable Lo Mein
I love making this dish because:
- you can use any vegetables that you have in your fridge at the time. I’ve used carrots, cabbage, pak choi, red peppers, onions, mushrooms, green beans and beansprouts, but you can you whatever you have. Broccoli, sugar snaps, celery, mini corn cobs – anything goes;
- the sauce is made with only a few simple ingredients, but they all combine so well to form a deliciously tasty sauce;
- it’s so healthy – the vegetables are steamed in their own juices before the sauce is added, locking in all the vitamins;
- vegetable lo mein is so quick and easy to prepare – once you’ve prepared the vegetables the dish can be cooked and ready to eat in about 10 minutes;
What you will need
I like to cook this in a large wok (with a lid) but you could also use a frying pan. You will also need a saucepan for boiling the noodles, a sharp knife for cutting up the vegetables and a chopping board to protect your work surface.
**Get the complete list of ingredients and full instructions for making vegetable lo mein on the printable recipe card at the end of this post**
- Vegetables – you will need 1 to 1.5 cups of vegetables per person. You can use any combination of vegetables that you like. For this recipe, I have used cabbage, carrots, onions, red peppers, pak choi, mushrooms, green beans and beansprouts. If you prefer you can substitute any of these with whatever you have in your fridge, for example, broccoli, sugar snap peas, mini sweetcorn or celery.
- Noodles – you can use any Chinese noodles (either wet or dry). If you can’t find these in your local supermarket you can substitute these with spaghetti (I won’t tell anyone if you don’t). You could also use instant Ramen noodles.
- Garlic – use fresh cloves or crushed garlic from a jar.
- Ginger – once again, you can use fresh ginger or crushed ginger from a jar. If you don’t have those, you could even use half a teaspoon of dried ginger powder.
- Oyster sauce – I love the umami flavour that oyster sauce brings to this dish.
- Soy sauce – for saltiness
- Brown sugar – for sweetness
- Vinegar – I like to use rice wine vinegar. You can substitute with dry sherry or Shaoxing wine.
- Sesame oil – adds a nutty taste. Sesame oil is very strong – you won’t need much.
- Dried chilli flakes or cayenne pepper – for a touch of heat (optional)
- You will also need 2 tablespoons of olive oil or sunflower oil for frying the vegetables.
What to do
The preparation is the most important part of making this dish. Once that is out of the way, you can cook this dish in minutes.
- Peel and chop the vegetables. Shred the cabbage and slice the onions and mushrooms finely. Cut the carrots into julienne strips and chop the green beans into 2″ lengths. Cut the pak choi coarsely. Rinse the beansprouts under cold water and pat them dry with a paper towel.
- Ginger and garlic – if using fresh, peel the garlic and ginger. Crush the garlic and grate the ginger or chop very finely.
- Mix the sauce. Combine the oyster sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar and sesame oil in a small bowl. Mix to dissolve the sugar and set aside.
- Cook the noodles. Put the noodles in a pan of boiling salted water and allow them to boil for about 7 minutes (or according to the instructions on the packet) until softened. Drain into a colander and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Leave the noodles in the colander to drain completely.
- If using instant Ramen noodles, discard the spice packet and place the noodles in a bowl. Cover with boiling water and allow to stand for 2 minutes until softened. Drain and set aside.
- If using wet (pre-cooked) noodles, there is nothing to do other than open the packet 🙂 .
Cook the vegetable lo mein
Stir-fry the onions, garlic, ginger, chilli (if using), red pepper, carrots, green beans and cabbage very quickly in hot oil, just to coat them.
Turn the heat down to a low simmer and add 1 tablespoon of water. Cover with a lid and allow the vegetables to steam until they start to soften (about 5 minutes). The moisture from the vegetables turns to steam which hits the lid of the pan and drips back down onto the vegetables, thus keeping them moist.
Now add the remaining vegetables (pak choi, mushrooms and beansprouts). These vegetables take less time to cook which is why we add them later.
Replace the lid and continue to steam for 3 to 4 minutes.
Taste the vegetables to see whether they are cooked to your liking. If you feel they need a little longer, just replace the lid and steam for a minute or two more.
The vegetables should not be dry, there should be quite a bit of moisture from the steaming process. However, keep your eye on the vegetables while they are steaming. If they look as though they are drying out, add another tablespoon of water.
Add the prepared sauce, stir it through the vegetables and taste for seasoning.
I have deliberately not added salt to the list of ingredients, as I find soy sauce normally adds sufficient saltiness. If you feel the dish needs a little salt, now is the time to add it. And as always, add a little at a time – remember, you can put it in, but you can’t take it out!
Add the cooked noodles and stir through.
Stir over a low heat to allow the noodles to heat through.
Transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately.
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Can I add protein?
Of course, you can. Prawns and chicken go exceptionally well with this dish, but you could also add sliced beef, or even pork.
Allow approximately 90g or 3 ounces of protein per person
Your protein should be cooked as part of the preparation steps, so all you have to do is stir it through the completed lo mein dish at the same time that you add the cooked noodles.
You can use fresh or frozen prawns. Just make sure they are shelled and deveined first.
Fry the prawns in butter until they turn pink – approximately 4 minutes. Set aside until you are ready to add them to the dish.
Chicken, pork or beef
Cut the meat into bite-sized strips.
For the chicken, you can use skinless breast fillets, or skinless, boneless thighs.
If you are using beef, get a good quality steak that cooks quickly. Don’t use meat that needs a long cooking time. The same goes for the pork. I would use pork tenderloin or leg steaks.
Coat the meat in a mixture of cornflour/cornstarch and soy sauce and leave to stand for about 10 minutes. You should use 1 tablespoon of cornflour for each 3 tablespoons of soy sauce. The exact quantities will depend on the amount of meat you are cooking. You will need enough cornflour/soy mixture to coat all the pieces of the meat.
Heat a little oil in a frying pan or wok and stirfry until the strips of meat are nicely bowned and cooked through.
Remove the meat from the pan and set it aside until you are ready to add it to the lo mein.
Can I freeze vegetable lo mein?
Technically, you can freeze lo mein for up to 6 months (4 months if you have added protein).
Practically I wouldn’t bother. This dish is so quick to prepare you can have it on the table in minutes.
Plus, if you freeze and reheat the lo mein the vegetables will lose a lot of their crispness and texture.
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If you enjoyed this recipe for vegetable lo mein you may like to try some of my other Chinese inspired recipes.
- Oven-baked teriyaki chicken and vegetables
- Twice cooked pork belly with a sticky glaze
- Easy garlic chicken stirfry
- Crispy orange chicken baked in the oven
- Chinese egg fried rice with peas and ham
- Sweet and sour chicken with homemade sauce
- Easy beef and broccoli stirfry
Vegetable lo mein
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- 1 medium onion finely sliced
- 2 small carrots julienned
- ½ small cabbage finely shredded
- 12 green beans sliced
- 1 small red pepper/capsicum de-seeded and diced
- 3 ounces / 85 grams mushrooms sliced
- 1 small pak choi coarsely chopped
- 3 cups beansprouts rinsed
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 inch piece of ginger peeled and finely chopped or grated
- ½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes optional
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or sunflower oil
- 6 ounces / 170 grams Chinese noodles
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar substitute with dry sherry or Shaoxing wine
- Peel and chop the vegetables1 medium onion, ½ small cabbage, 12 green beans, 1 small red pepper/capsicum, 3 ounces / 85 grams mushrooms, 1 small pak choi, 3 cups beansprouts, 2 small carrots
- Prepare the garlic and ginger – peel the garlic and mince finely, peel the ginger and either grate it or chop it finely.2 cloves garlic, 1 inch piece of ginger
- Mix the lo mein sauce – combine all the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.2 tablespoons oyster sauce, 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- Cook the noodles – bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add salt to taste, then boil the noodles for approximately 7 minutes, or until soft. (You can also follow the instructions on your packet of noodles). Drain into a colander and then rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Leave in the colander to drain completely, until needed.6 ounces / 170 grams Chinese noodles
- Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan (with a lid), then add the onions, garlic, ginger, chilli (if using), carrots, red pepper, beans and cabbage. Stirfry briefly, just to coat them with oil. Then turn down the heat to a low simmer, a 1 tablespoon of water, cover the pan with a lid, and allow to steam for about 5 minutes.2 tablespoons olive oil or sunflower oil, ½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
- Add the beansprouts, pak choi and mushrooms, stir through, replace the lid and steam for a further 3 to 4 minutes.
- Taste the vegetables to see if they are cooked to your liking – if they are still too crispy, replace the lid and steam for another minute or two.
- Add the prepared sauce, stir through to coat the vegetables and bring to the boil.
- Add the noodles and stir through. Test for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
- Stir over a low heat to warm the noodles through, then transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately.
Add proteinAllow approximately 90g or 3 ounces of protein per person Your protein should be cooked as part of the preparation steps, so all you have to do is stir it through the completed lo mein dish at the same time that you add the cooked noodles.
PrawnsYou can use fresh or frozen prawns. Just make sure they are shelled and deveined first. Fry the prawns in butter until they turn pink – approximately 4 minutes. Set aside until you are ready to add them to the dish.
Chicken, pork or beefCut the meat into bite sized strips. For the chicken, you can use skinless breast fillets, or skinless, boneless thighs. If you are using beef, get a good quality steak that cooks quickly. Don’t use meat that needs a long cooking time. The same goes for the pork. I would use pork tenderloin or leg steaks. Coat the meat in a mixture of cornflour/cornstarch and soy sauce and leave to stand for about 10 minutes. You should use 1 tablespoon of cornflour for each 3 tablespoons of soy sauce. The exact quantities will depend on the amount of meat you are cooking. You will need enough cornflour/soy mixture to coat all the pieces of the meat. Heat a little oil in a frying pan or wok and stirfry until the strips of meat are nicely bowned and cooked through. Remove the meat from the pan and set it aside until you are ready to add it to the lo mein. Nutrition – this is an estimate only. Actual values will depend on your choice of vegetables.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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