For years and years, my Chinese takeout orders centered around egg drop soup, potstickers or egg rolls, lemon chicken, Szechuan string beans and my first noodle love, lo mein. (And let’s not forget the complimentary baggies or dishes of fried wonton strips with packets of duck sauce for dipping, two things that seem to be a uniquely East Coast Chinese restaurant treat.) Over the years, I’ve successfully knocked out a few homemade versions of the items in that list (as you can see if you click on the links), but lo mein continually escaped me. It’s not because it’s a terribly involved dish to make — au contraire, it’s done in about fifteen minutes start to finish and utilizes store-bought gluten-free linguine — but I just couldn’t get the flavors quite right, there’s clearly more to it than just soy sauce-drenched noodles.
I swear that the key to takeout-quality noodles is a good amount of oyster sauce, a tasty gluten-free version of which is made by Wok Mei. It adds the umami element that my previous attempts at lo mein making sorely lacked. Another flavor booster employed: tossing the noodles with a splash of sesame oil then toasting them in the pan before adding the cooking sauce, this simple step captures just enough smokiness, infusing the pasta with the essence of a quick toss in a searingly hot wok.
It’s a great dish to make when you have a few handfuls of raw — or nearly raw — veggies that need to be used up. I’m partial to snow peas and carrots, but a handful of mung bean sprouts, blanched broccoli florets, baby corn and water chestnuts (or maybe even jicama?) would be excellent, if not terribly authentic. (Speaking of baby corn, have you seen this video of a hamster eating an ear of it? I am at once in awe and horrified by its talent.) Now that you know all the details of my Chinese takeout wish list, what dishes do you miss the most? I can’t wait expand the catalog of homemade, gluten-free renditions even further!
Vegetable Lo Mein
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
- 1/2 package (6 ounces or 170 grams) bionaturae gluten-free linguine
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 grams) untoasted sesame oil
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces or 57 grams) water
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounce or 28 grams) gluten-free soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce or 14 grams) gluten-free oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounce or 28 grams) refined peanut oil
- 1/4 pound (113 grams) fresh shitake mushrooms¹, cut into about 1/2″ thick slices(
- 1 teaspoon (4 grams) minced ginger
- 1 teaspoon (4 grams) minced garlic
- 2 peeled and trimmed (2 ounces or 57 grams) carrots, slice on the bias about 1/4″ thick
- 1/4 pound (113 grams) snow peas, cut in half if desired
- 2 scallions, trim and mince
Cook noodles and prepare cooking sauce:
Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Cook pasta until about 1 minute shy of al dente, about 7 minutes for bionaturae linguine. Drain pasta in a colander, rinse with plenty of cold water to stop cooking, shake off excess water and toss with sesame oil; set aside.
While pasta cooks, whisk together water, soy sauce and oyster sauce in a small measuring cup or bowl; set aside.
Set a medium – large skillet (I used an uncoated stainless steel pan, but nonstick should work OK too as long as it can take the heat!) over medium-high heat, add peanut oil and bring to a shimmer. Sauté mushrooms for about 2 minutes, turning half way through, or until tender and caramelized around the edges. Reduce heat to medium and stir in ginger, garlic, carrots and snow peas. Stirring constantly, cook for about 1 – 2 minutes or until veggies are somewhat tender and browned in spots.
Finish noodles and serve:
Add noodles and minced scallions to the pan, toss until noodles are lightly toasted in spots and any excess water clinging to them evaporates. Stir in cooking sauce, scraping the flavorful browned bits from the bottom (deglazing). Cook just until sauce is absorbed. Remove from heat and transfer to a serving bowl so the noodles don’t overcook or burn; serve immediately with additional soy sauce (and oyster sauce and chili-garlic sauce, if desired)!