When I was a boy, my favorite thing to eat was spaghetti. I’m sure this is common for most children. I used to get pretty upset when spaghetti was not the meal prepared by my mother every night of the week. How could the rest of my family NOT want spaghetti? As I got a little older, my love of spaghetti began to mold itself into a love of all things noodles. Being able to find the joy in eating my favorite dish prepared a bounty of ways depending on culture of origin was kind of incredible.
One of my favorite ways to prepare ‘noodles’ is Lo Mein. It doesn’t hurt that Lo Mein is quite possibly the best ‘noodle dish’ to eat cold at 3 in the morning while binge watching TV on the couch. There is something about the way the whole dish changes, taste and texture, with the temperature. Both ways are delicious, so much so that I can’t pick a favorite. I have many memories of watching movies in my room as a teenager, well after the rest of my family fell asleep, with a takeout box of cold Lo Mein in my lap.
A few years ago my eldest daughter was introduced to the wonderful flavors of Lo Mein. Our family stumbled upon a small family run Thai restaurant just around the corner from our Fort Worth home; Happy Bowl. From the outside it isn’t pretty, but as we’ve learned from many Food Network shows, some of the best food is found at a hole in the wall.
My daughter was hooked. Much like my spaghetti allegiance as a child, my daughter literally begged us daily for more Happy Bowl. She loved it so much she became friends with the owners (who spoke very little English) to the point where they prepared her dish special every time we came (and if I called in an order, upon seeing me enter the restaurant to pick it up he would rush in the back to make my daughter extra shrimp for her Lo Mein).
Then we moved to Florida, and since moving she has yet to find a Lo Mein meal quite like Happy Bowl.
So last night I decided to make her Lo Mein. She still told me Happy Bowl was better, but it’s nice to hear her say it was the second best Lo Mein she’s ever had. If you’d like to make the second best Lo Mein my daughter has ever had, you can!
The first thing you’ll want to do is get your chicken in the marinade. For this you’ll need:
Orange Chicken Marinade
2 1/1 TSP White Sugar
1 ½ TBSP Rice Vinegar
¼ Cup Soy Sauce
1 TBSP Hoisin Sauce
1 Zested Orange
1 LB Chicken Thighs
Thoroughly mix all ingredients (sans chicken) in a medium sized bowl and then add your chicken, making sure it’s coated well and submerged in the mixture. Cover and set in the fridge for at least an hour. The orange you zested you’ll want to set aside for use later as well.
Next we have the Lo Mein. I usually prepare my mise en place (a fancy way of saying ‘cutting up my ingredients’) ahead of time, while my chicken is marinating, so that when it is time to cook I can move more swiftly through the process. So, while the chicken is in the fridge, get out your vegetables. These can be whatever your family prefers. The wonderful thing about meals like this is that they are easy to adjust to make them fit your family best. Personally, I went with:
1 Small Head Broccoli
Handful Baby Carrots
½ Head Purple Cabbage
I used a mandolin to slice my cabbage and carrots and with my broccoli I cut tiny florets out of the head. I transferred these to a bowl, covered and set aside until I was ready to cook.
Then I moved onto my sauce. For this you’ll need:
Lo Mein Sauce
1 ¼ Cups Chicken Broth
1 Cup Water
1 TBSP Sesame Oil
1 TBSP Ground Black Pepper
2 ½ TSP White Sugar
1 ½ TBSP Rice Vinegar
¼ Cup Soy Sauce
1 Juiced Orange (use the one you set aside after zesting)
1 TBSP Hoisin Sauce
2 TBSP Corn Starch
You’ll want to add all ingredients (sans corn starch) to a large bowl and mix thoroughly, much like you did with the marinade. Then, in a separate mixing bowl, add the corn starch and you’ll now dissolve the corn starch by transferring your sauce mixture into this bowl in small increments until you’ve transferred the entire mixture from the first bowl to the bowl containing the corn starch, mixing thoroughly throughout. You’ll cover and set aside until you are ready to cook.
Once you are ready to cook, you’ll want to boil your pasta water and get your noodles cooking. We all know that there are many types of noodles available at your local supermarket and you are free to use whichever your family prefers. Depending on texture, you could use spaghetti or linguini or even glass noodles (which, despite what you may think, will work just fine with a thicker sauce). The choice is yours. I personally used:
1 LB Linguini
You can utilize time best by cooking your chicken and vegetables while your pasta is cooking, but inevitably something will be done before the others. If your pasta is done first, drain and set aside, coating in 1 TSP of sesame oil to keep from sticking together.
For the next step (the cooking of the chicken) you’ll need:
1 TBSP Vegetable Oil
Green Onion (to taste)
Orange Zest (to taste)
First, heat 1 TBSP of vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet (I personally do not have a wok, so I use a skillet) and add your chicken and marinade. I bring my marinade to boil on the stove before lowering my heat to medium and cooking the chicken (about 4 minutes per side). You’ll notice that when the chicken is ready, the marinade has thickened considerably. Remove the chicken and transfer to a serving dish. You can then pour the thickened marinade over your chicken and garnish with fresh green onion and orange zest. You’ll notice that I did not give measurements for the garnishes above and that is because this is your meal the way you like to eat it, and the garnishes will alter the taste to your liking. Think of them like the salt of the meal (since we aren’t using any, thanks to the use of all that soy sauce). If you want a stronger orange flavor, add extra zest. It is all up to you as the chef and the loved ones you are cooking for.
Once you’ve transferred your chicken to another dish, use the same skillet (or wok), leftover bits and all, to reduce your sauce and cook your vegetables. Aside from you premade mixture and vegetables, you’ll need:
2 TBSP Fresh Ginger (minced)
4 Garlic Cloves (minced)
Add your garlic and ginger to the skillet and let cook for about 1 minute before adding your sauce mixture and bringing to a boil. Once you’ve reached a boil, lower heat to medium and let reduce for about 5 minutes. Once you notice the sauce is thickening as it bubbles, add your vegetables and coat well. The vegetables will not take long to cook. You don’t want them getting soft, and since they are sliced and cut small we’re talking 5 minutes tops. Next you’ll transfer the sauce and vegetables to your pasta pot and mix with your noodles until coated thoroughly.
Serve immediately and garnish with fresh green onions and orange zest and for an extra kick, thinly sliced fresh jalapeño.
I love cooking the things my family loves and tweaking them to make them specifically for my family, and so I hope you choose to take this recipe and use it more as a guide, because the more of you that you can put into a dish, the more it becomes part of your story.
I hope that you enjoy it and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the dish if you do!
P.S. Yes, it was rather delicious directly out of the fridge, in a Tupperware container at midnight last night…