Lo Mein in many places actually originated in China, as a dish of noodles with wheat flour. If you want to order the most authentic dish on the menu, lo mein is not the dish for you. Although lo mein, unlike General Tso's chicken, is not entirely unknown in China, the Chinese version is very different from the one we know. Lo mein actually means scrambled noodles and refers to a preparation method rather than a specific dish.
According to My Great Recipes, the Chinese preparation method involves mixing the noodles in a soup broth just before it finishes cooking so that the noodles soften and absorb the flavor of the broth and its condiments. Mein or mian is simply the Chinese word for noodles. Lo mein means mixed noodles, while chow mein or chao mian means fried noodles. Both chow mein and mein are noodle dishes from China.
Their names are anglicized versions of traditional Chinese names, chow mein for chao mian and lo mein for lo mian. Chao means sautéed, so chow mein are stir-fried noodles. It means mixed, so mein are mixed noodles. Because chow mein noodles are fried for longer, they tend to have a higher fat content than lo mein noodles.
Unlike chow mein, lo mein noodles are cooked separately from the rest of the ingredients in the dish, so they are fully cooked rather than half-boiled. Chinese lo mein noodles are also sautéed in a wok, but the sauce is lighter and thinner, perhaps made only with soy vinegar and rice with just a little thickener. While chow mein with thin, crispy noodles is a staple in many Chinese takeout restaurants, more authentic versions of chao mian have soft noodles. In its country of origin, it is made with thin flour and egg noodles that stand out for their elastic texture.
Although some Chinese American food menus consider chow mein and lo mein to be synonymous, they are two different foods thanks to their cooking methods. South Asian Chinese cuisine, such as that served in India, is more likely to be vegetarian and served with sauce. Lo mein can be the perfect Chinese comfort food: a little sweet, a little sticky, not too spicy, but very satisfying. You really don't need complicated ingredients for the sauce, since its recipe includes soy sauce (you can opt for a low-sodium version), oyster sauce, rice wine or dry sherry, honey, peanut or vegetable oil, garlic, ginger and scallions, with mushrooms for the vegetables and roasted pork or other meat of your choice (leftover roasted chicken would be another simple option) for protein.
If you want to enjoy a healthier version of mein for much less money than it will cost you in a restaurant and with a little more effort than it will take you to order takeout food, it's actually a fairly simple dish to prepare. When you order any of the dishes from a Chinese American restaurant, they are generally very different from traditional Chinese cuisine, because they have been modified to suit Western tastes. If there are no Chinese egg noodles available, Italian pasta, such as fettucini or linguini, is a practical substitute. In addition, if you're controlling your sodium intake, you might want to leave out Lo mein salty soy sauce, which increases the sodium content to 3540 mg for vegetables and to a whopping 4170 mg for the shrimp version.