Cantonese style chow mein is characterized by a bed of crispy pan fried noodles topped with a delicious brown sauce with stirfried meat and veggies—it could be seafood, beef, chicken, etc. The brown sauce is usually a base of soy sauce and oyster sauce thickened by a cornstarch slurry.
Chow mein was often a dish we ordered when we went to a Cantonese restaurant or dim sum place and got as an "add on" dish (because for us, when we went for dim sum, we ate dim sum, and any other "entree" is really just in case you aren't full, or you want to bring it home as leftovers, haha). My dad would often order the chicken chow mein for us to eat and it is a memory I often associate with whenever I see it on the menu. I love the way the pan fried noodles would crackle and crunch when you cut into them, and how tender and moist the protein always was, regardless of whether it was chicken, beef, or pork.
The reason for this is due to the marinade used for the protein and then cooking it on high heat—this is a process called 'velveting' and it locks in all the juices, making even chicken breast tender and yummy.
Since we've been craving childhood favorites lately, and because there is truly a shortage of good, authentic Asian eats where I live, I found our local mini Asian market sold chow mein in their freezer, I decided to make this restaurant favorite at home! I air fried the noodles rather than frying the noodles pan or wok of oil so it is just mildly healthier than the restaurant version! It was so crispehhhhhh 😍
The package of chow mein noodles we got had 4 servings, so we just used half and saved the other half to make again later in the week. You can always make as much as you want, but we have a small airfryer so it wouldn't have fit all of it in one go anyway, haha. Be sure to get the thin chow mein noodles--thick noodles won't crisp up the same way.
AIR FRYER BEEF CHOW MEIN
Makes 2 servings
Air Fryer Chow Mein
- 1/2 package Chow mein noodles
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- salt* optional
Marinade for Beef
- 6 oz beef, sliced into bite sized pieces
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 3 stalks of scallions
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 cup water or low sodium chicken broth
1. Marinate your sliced beef in 1 tbsp cornstarch, a sprinkling of salt, black pepper, sugar, oyster sauce, and 2 tbsp water. Mix well and let marinate for 10 minutes.
2. Boil the chow mein noodles briefly, about 1-2 minutes. Then drain and run through cold water to remove any excess starch, and get rid of as much liquid as possible in the strainer. Use paper towels to dry if needed.
3. Add the olive oil and sesame oil to the chow mein in a large mixing bowl and mix well to ensure the noodles are coated. You can add a pinch of salt and mix in as well, but optional.
4. Lay the noodles flat in your air fryer rack with a piece of parchment paper underneath the noodles. Airfry at 380°F for 10 minutes. Then flip the noodles and move the noodles around so that all the crispy edges are under and the non crispy noodles are exposed. Airfry again at 380°F for 7 minutes. At this point, check to see if it is crispy throughout, and if not, mix the noodles and make sure the non crispy noodles are exposed and airfry again, 3 minutes at a time until it reaches desired crispness. The time may differ based on how dry you were able to get your noodles.
5. While the noodles are airfrying, add a little oil to your fry pan and cook your beef until seared brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and cook your onions in the remaining oil until onions are brown and translucent.
6. Make your sauce mixture with cornstarch, water (or low sodium chicken broth), oyster sauce, light soy sauce, sugar, and black pepper. Add your beef back in, add scallions, and add the sauce mixture and mix. Cook until the sauce thickens and taste—add salt if needed, but if you use chicken broth, most likely do not need extra salt. Once the sauce is thickened to your desired consistency, shut off the heat.
7. Once airfried chow mein noodles reach the desired crispness, put onto a large plate and spoon the beef and onions sauce on top. Garnish with more scallions if desired and enjoy!
Until next time,
Got leftover rice? Try making congee! Congee is a rice porridge, also called jook 粥 in Cantonese or zhou in Mandarin. It is slowly cooked over a low fire with any variety of ingredients your heart desires, but one of the popular variations is century egg with learn pork and chopped scallions. Other types may include seafood congees with shrimp, scallops, squid, and fish, or simple congees with just chicken. Most of them also incorporate ginger which brings a warm balance to the porridge. Typically it is eaten as a breakfast item with crispy fried youtiu 油条, which are fried sticks of dough that is used for dipping into the congee. (Youtiu is also delicious to dip into hotpot broth!) It's a great vessel to soak up liquid flavors.
Congee can be made from scratch with fresh rice (though it can take longer) or if you're lazy like me, I use leftover or extra white rice that I have on hand from another meal. Once the jook is ready to eat, you can serve it with side dishes like pork floss (dehydrated pork that is dried and fluffy, seasoned with soy sauce and sugar), pickled cucumbers, spicy bamboo shoots in chili oil, roasted peanuts, and more.
This is a dish that is close to my heart because my grandmother made it often for us for breakfast, or whenever my tummy didn't feel well. A warm bowl of jook cooked with chicken was comforting and easy on the stomach, and had such pure, delicious chicken flavor infused into it. Grandma always makes her jook super soft and thick and called it "BB jook" because it's how she made it for us when we were babies--she would spoon feed us the jook instead of American style baby food haha. This is a dish that is made with love and care deeply imbued into it. ❤️ Century egg and lean pork congee is also a congee we would be able to buy at restaurants or Chinese eaters in Chinatown, but of course, only grandma and dad made the best jook that money can't buy 😊
You can find century egg in most Chinese grocery stores, either in the refrigerated section or on a shelf where they keep dried goods. Century egg is a preserved and cured duck egg--it is not actually a century old, though when you crack it open it certainly looks like something that might have been, haha! It's characterized by dark brownish jelly like outside, with a blackish green gooey yolk inside. It is definitely an acquired taste to beginners, but there is something about it that is so delicious once you grow accustomed to it. You can eat it in steamed dishes, in congee, or just peel, cut and enjoy with vinegar dressing over cold silken tofu as an appetizer!
Now that I'm older and cook for myself and my hubby, I make congee from time to time and it brings back fond memories of my grandmother making it for me, or of his mom making it for him. It's something that is both comforting and nostalgic, and I hope you enjoy it as well!
CENTURY EGG CONGEE WITH LEAN PORK
- 2 cups cooked leftover rice
- 1 can chicken broth
- 2-3 cups water
- 2 century eggs peeled and chopped up
- 100 grams sliced pork loin or pork butt into slivers (about 1/4 pound)
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 3 stalks of green onions
- 2 slices of thinly julienned ginger
- 1 tbsp chicken bouillon powder
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tbsp white pepper
- salt to taste
1. Cut your pork into thin slivers and then coat it in cornstarch and a tbsp of oil. You can add a small pinch of salt to it and let it marinate for about 20 minutes.
2. Mix the leftover rice and break it up in a pot. Add your chicken broth and water.
2. Peel and rinse the century eggs and chop them up, add to the pot. Add the chopped up scallions and ginger to the pot.
3. Bring to a boil and add in your pork. Continue mixing, and once pork is cooked through, lower heat down to the lowest flame possible and let simmer for about 1-2 hrs. Mix once in a while to prevent the rice from sticking and burning at the bottom of the pot.
4. Keep an eye on the congee to ensure it doesn't get too thick--add water 1/4 cup at a time and mix if you want it thinner.
5. Once it reaches the consistency you like, add the chicken bouillon, salt, sugar, and white pepper to taste.
Enjoy with Chinese crispy pickled cucumber, spicy bamboo shoots in chili oil, or with pork floss!
Until next time,
So I haven't posted in foreverrrrrr to this blog because a LOT has happened in the past year, other than the COVID19 pandemic, of course. Earlier this year we moved to Illinois because my hubby got a new job and everything changed after that. We quit our jobs, he started his new job, we sold our house in New Jersey, bought a new house in Illinois and moved over here within the span of a couple months. Looking back on it now, I don't even know how we managed such a feat, but it certainly helped that his new company paid for all of the expenses and moving company. It's crazy how much stuff we'd accumulated over the short span of a few years, and so I got rid of a TON of stuff and still managed to move with a giant truckload! We've been living in Illinois since May now, and I have just started to get back into the groove of things, in terms of doing things that I wanted to do, for myself.
Since moving out here, we realized our town does not have many good Asian food options, and we did try some of the offerings around, though none of it memorable. I craved all the things we usually had easy access to in NJ and NYC, and being out here all alone really made me miss real, authentic foods from my culture. If we wanted anything remotely good, we'd have to drive about 2 hours to Chicago to find something. There is a town about an hour from us with slightly more authentic Chinese food, but it's still just so-so. So now, I end up making a lot of the foods we crave. Within the first 2 months or so, I made hundreds and hundreds of assorted dumplings and wontons, one of our favorite foods, which brings me to today's recipe post!
Wontons (雲吞) are a favorite in our family and a type of dumpling that I have fond memories of. These dumplings are a favorite of my father's and his favorite were from a very specific no frills restaurant that he would frequent in Hong Kong that served up "Ping Pong ball sized" wontons filled to the brim with fresh shrimp mixed with a touch of pork and served in a delicious clear broth. Cheap, fast, and delicious was the name of the game when it came to food in Hong Kong--especially street food or casual food. Nowadays, we always reminisce about how delicious the ping pong ball wontons were from Hong Kong whenever we have wontons or make them at home!
Traditional wontons are dumplings that are typically filled with pork, shrimp, or a combination of both. In Hong Kong and China, wonton soup often includes 大地鱼 or bian yu, also known as dried sole or flounder that adds a real hit of umami when the wontons are submerged in it. Some dried flounder powder is sometimes added to the wonton filling as well. It's been pretty hard to find this dried flounder powder in the USA, but with some online googling, I'm sure you can find it if you truly want an authentic wonton experience. For this recipe, we don't use dried flounder powder, but it still tastes great and goes wonderfully with noodle soup or on its own.
In my recipe, we use shrimp and pork, some Chinese staple seasonings and sauces, and ginger. The trick to a shrimp-ilicious wonton is to mix a combination of chopped chunk shrimp and pounded shrimp paste with some ground pork.
With 2 pounds of shrimp, I clean and devein all of them, removing the shells, and then chop 1 pound into small chunks, and then with the remaining 1 pound of shrimp, I take the back of my knife and "pound" each individual shrimp into a paste. This results in a wonton with a "crunchy" and smooth mouthfeel from the 2 varying textured shrimp filling.
(You will see fibers pulling apart into strands). This process of mixing until the pork is "起膠" or "hei gao" in Cantonese, which means that it will have a good firm, and "bouncy" texture when cooked. When a dumpling filling does not "hei gao", it will have a loose texture that results in a bad mouth-feel when you eat it. Here's a photo of what "hei gao" looks like.
Once your filling is ready, you'll spoon some onto some thin wonton wrappers which you can find at most Asian markets, and now increasingly can be found in the refrigerated sections of non-Asian supermarkets. I usually find them where they keep their tofu selections, which is also where they keep egg roll wrappers if you need to find some! I like to fold my wontons in half, then bring the ends together to "hug" the wonton.
I love to wrap a whole bunch of wontons and dumplings in one sitting so that I can store them in the freezer. After you are done wrapping them, place each finished dumplings onto a flat pan lined with parchment paper. After they are frozen, you can throw them into a freezer gallon bag to save space in the freezer.
It's so easy to use these for a quick meal or if we don't feel like really cooking--just pop them out of the freezer and throw them in some boiling water until they float! I've also discovered that wontons and dumplings get super crispy and delicious if you spray them with oil and put them in the air fryer at 380 degrees F for about 8 minutes, then flip and fry for 2-6 more minutes until they reach your preferred doneness. Healthy and yummy with no deep frying and making a mess in the house? Yes please!
I definitely recommend eating this with the recommended spicy chili garlic dipping sauce and I hope you enjoy this wonton recipe!
SHRIMP & PORK WONTONS
1 package of wonton wrappers (50-60 wrappers)
Spicy Chili Garlic Dipping Sauce:
I hope you enjoy this recipe, it's one of our favorites!
Until next time,
Just a gal who loves to eat and cook ❤