Veggie chow mein is a quick and easy Chinese noodle dish that can be fried up in just 15 minutes, and is a great fridge clearer!
Veggie chow mein is one of my go-to Chinese dishes to make – it’s super quick, it’s super easy, and it’s always delicious. You can’t beat this big bowlful of noodles with veggies, smoked tofu and salty sauce.
What is chow mein?
Chow mein is a simple Chinese dish made with thick noodles, stir-fried with veggies.
There are no set rules about how to make chow mein. You can use whatever vegetables you like. You can add tofu for protein. You can scramble in an egg. You can top it with fresh coriander, chopped cashew nuts, sesame seeds…
Chow mein may be a Chinese dish, but different countries have developed their own versions, so really you can make it however you like. As usual, I’m much more concerned with making a tasty dinner for my family than with making an authentically Chinese dish.
Here’s my version!
To start, stir-fry your vegetables. Use the biggest wok you have, it will make things much easier once you start to add the other components of your veggie chow mein!
Make sure you add plenty of garlic, a little ginger, and some red chilli – start to build the flavour straight away.
Cook the veg until they’re fairly tender, but still have a bit of bite to them. We don’t want soggy veg.
What vegetables should I use in chow mein?
There are all sorts of vegetables that work really well in veggie chow mein. Ideally, you want to choose at least 3-4 different veg, so your meal has plenty of different flavours and textures.
I actually used a shop-bought mix of stir-fry vegetables, as it ends up being much cheaper than buying each vegetable individually, and creates a lot less waste. I augmented the mix with a couple of other vegetables that I wanted to include.
My veggie chow mein had:
- bean sprouts
- mange tout
Other vegetables that would work really well in your chow mein:
- baby corn
- spring onions
- green beans
Fresh egg noodles
Next, add your noodles!
Chow mein typically uses thick egg noodles. I like to use fresh noodles, which can be added straight to the pan with no pre-cooking.
Of course, you can use dried noodles instead if that’s what you have – just boil them until they’re soft before adding them to the pan.
Crispy smoked tofu
I wanted to add a bit of extra protein to my veggie chow mein, so I also added some tofu, which I fried on its own in a pan first, to get it nice and crispy.
This time I used smoked tofu, which is really tasty, and has a lovely smoky flavour – but normal tofu will work well too!
Just mix everything together in your enormous wok, add a very generous splash of soy sauce, and serve!
How to serve chow mein
You can serve chow mein as a side dish or a main dish, whatever works best for you.
Personally, I think it works fine as a full meal in its own right – it already contains veg, carbs and protein, so you don’t really need to add anything else. I just added some steamed broccoli and a veggie spring roll on the side, just because I’ll happily take any excuse to add pastry to my meal.
If you’d prefer to serve your chow mein as a side dish, it would go beautifully with a Chinese-style curry like my chip shop Chinese curry! Though you probably don’t need to double up on the tofu and all those veg, so in this case I’d skip the tofu in the chow mein, and go easy on the veg too.
However you choose to serve your veggie chow mein, it makes a really tasty Chinese meal that can be stirred up in only about 15 minutes!
Veggie chow mein
- 2 tbsp oil, divided
- 350 g (~ 12 1/2 oz) mixed stir fry vegetables (~ 5 cups when chopped) – see blog post for vegetable ideas
- 1/2 mild red chilli, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp puréed ginger
- 160 g (~ 5 1/2 oz) extra firm tofu (I used smoked tofu), pressed and cut into bitesize pieces
- 410 g (~ 14 1/2 oz) fresh egg noodles
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp Chinese five spice
- Black pepper
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds, to serve (optional)
- Heat a dash of oil in a large wok, and add the vegetables. Stir-fry the veg for a couple of minutes, then add the chilli, garlic and ginger, and cook for a further 5 minutes, until the vegetables are fairly tender but still with a bit of bite.
- While the vegetables are cooking, heat the remaining oil in a separate frying pan, and add the pieces of tofu. Cook for 5-10 minutes over a fairly high heat, until slightly crispy.
- Add the fresh noodles to the cooked vegetables, along with the crispy tofu, soy sauce, five spice, and a pinch of black pepper. Mix thoroughly, and cook over a medium heat for another 5 minutes or so, until the noodles are soft and everything is piping hot. If the chow mein starts to look a bit dry, add a splash of water.
- Serve hot, sprinkled with sesame seeds if desired.
Note: Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on exactly what ingredients you choose. Information above is for 1/3 of the recipe.