As a Chinese-Malaysian, I’ve always been fascinated with American-style Chinese food. Dishes like General Tso’s Chicken, Orange chicken and Chop Suey. They confused me to no end but was something I always wanted to give a go at. Lo Mein is another one of those dishes. I knew “Lo” translates to toss in Cantonese whereas “Mein” is noodles. The closest thing I could relate it with was “Kon Lo Mein” which is a general term we use for “dry tossed noodles.” where the sauce is served underneath the noodles. Patrons then proceed to toss the noodles by themselves using their own chopsticks.
After doing some research, I found that lo mein is extremely versatile. The yellow egg noodles and dark, salty sauce are a must-have, but the meat and vegetables vary according to everyone’s personal preference. Pork-filled Wontons and roasted pork slices can be added to make it “Kon Lo Wantan Mein.” Or it can be served with tofu and shiitake mushrooms for a vegetarian option. Personally, I love the fact that although the base ingredients remain the same, everything else can be customised to make something delicious entirely up to your own standards.
Hence, for this recipe we will be using thinly sliced pork belly as the main protein source. The layers of fat and meat make for a deliciously fatty ratio and amplify the taste of the noodles overall, turning a simple meal into something absolutely indulgent. I also incorporated tons of chinese aromatics into the dish such as dried chillies, spring onions, garlic and sesame oil. As for vegetables, feel free to use your favorites. However, the key is to use colorful vegetables that will stand out, that way the dish will become that much more pleasing to the eye. You can use carrots, red bell peppers, broccoli or snow peas as they maintain their color quite well after cooking, provided they’re not overcooked. They should also be chopped into long matchsticks or julienned. This is so they can be easily picked up with the chopsticks along with the noodles, ensuring each bite has a taste of everything. This won’t be your average takeaway lo mein for sure!
Aromatic Pork Belly Lo Mein Recipe
- 250 g sliced pork belly
- 1 small red bell pepper
- 6-8 stalks baby corn
- 5 cloves garlic
- Small bunch of spring onions
- 2 inch knob of ginger
- 2-3 dried chillies, soaked in water for 10 minutes
- 2 pax Packaged wantan / lo mein noodles
For the Marinade
- 1.5 tbsp light soy sauce
- 0.5 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 0.5 tbsp white pepper
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 tbsp cornstarch slurry (1 part cornstarch 2 parts cold water)
For the Sauce
- 3 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1.5 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
Marinate the pork belly
Make the sauce
Lay out all your ingredients
Fry the aromatics with the pork
Fry the vegetables
Boil the noodles and set aside
Add the pork back into the wok
Serve with sauce, toss and enjoy
STEP ONE – MARINATE THE PORK BELLY
Start by marinating your pork belly slices in all the marinade ingredients as mentioned above. Ideally, the pork belly slices should be sliced thinly so that it combines with the noodles better. It’s important to remove the rind as well as the cooking method used here will not result in a very tasty texture, whereas if you were to roast it to a crisp then the rind wouldn’t be something you want to get rid of for sure.
STEP TWO – MAKE THE SAUCE
With Lo Mein sauce, the sauce isn’t cooked in with the noodles. Rather, it’s served underneath the noodles, and only tossed together at the table. Combine all the ingredients for the sauce into a small bowl and set aside for later use.
STEP THREE – LAY OUT ALL YOUR INGREDIENTS
Now, we prepare our vegetables. For the ginger, many people recommend to use the back of a spoon to scrape off the skin. An easier way is to slice the ginger lengthwise into long pieces first, then simply chop off the edges. Peel and slice the garlic and chop off the larger, white sections of the spring onions. Refrain from frying the greener portions as they’re more suitable for garnishes and tend to burn almost immediately. Chop the soaked dried chillies into sections and remove the seeds if you don’t want the dish to be spicy in the slightest. Using fresh chillies will work well too but will have a completely different flavor and spice. Slice the baby corn and bell pepper into long thin slices.
STEP FOUR – FRY THE AROMATICS WITH THE PORK
Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into a wok at medium heat and fry the ginger and garlic until fragrant Then toss in the dried chilli segments and spring onion. When everything is starting to fill the kitchen with an irresistible smell but hasn’t started browning or burning yet, quickly add in the pork slices and fry on medium-high heat until no longer pink.
STEP FIVE – FRY THE VEGETABLES
Remove the pork once it’s cooked through but not overdone, and add in the baby corn and bell pepper slices or whatever vegetables you’re using. When removing the pork, make sure to scoop out all the little bits of garlic, spring onion or chili as if left in the wok can burn easily and leave a bitter taste. Fry the vegetables on medium-high heat until brightly colored but not soft. You could add in a few tablespoons of water to help steam the vegetables in the wok if they’re not cooking all the way through inside.
STEP SIX – BOIL THE NOODLES AND SET ASIDE
Boil enough noodles for 2 people. I’m using the instant type which is likely to be the most readily available one. It only takes a few quick minutes as it’s quite thin.
STEP SEVEN – ADD THE PORK BACK INTO THE WOK
Add the pork along with all the aromatics back into the wok and stir fry for another minute or so on high heat to reheat it through and blend the flavors together slightly. Toss in the boiled noodles and quickly fry for a minute as well.
STEP EIGHT – SERVE WITH THE SAUCE, TOSS AND ENJOY!
When serving, pour the sauce onto the bottom of a deep dish plate and place the noodles on top. Using your chopsticks, simply toss it around until each strand of noodle is coated and there are no more pale yellow patches. It can be quite entertaining to watch as the plain-looking noodles transform and get coated by the deliciously salty sauce.
Pork belly isn’t a meat generally served with lo mein, neither are the mix of aromatics I’ve used for this recipe. Which is precisely why I wanted to incorporate them into this dish and infuse even more chinese flavors into the noodles other than just the sauce. Use any vegetables you fancy, as long as they have good crunch and color, I promise you the end result will be much more delicious than any takeaway lo mein you’ll be able to find.
What is your version of lo mein? What vegetables do you normally like to incorporate in it? Let us know in the comments!