What to serve with chow mein for a complete meal depends largely on personal taste. Keep reading to learn about some classic complements to the tasty chow mein recipe.
You’ve undoubtedly had chow mein if you like Chinese cuisine. This tasty dish has noodles, vegetables, and pork or fish.
How do you round out chow mein? I’ll include my favorite side dishes for this Chinese classic in this article.
What is chow mein?
Chow mein is a famous Chinese dish prepared of stir-fried egg noodles, veggies, and sometimes pork or shellfish. “Chow mein” means “stir-fried noodles” in Mandarin Chinese.
The dish originated in northern China but is now famous globally, especially in Western countries.
Chow mein usually has thin wheat noodles stir-fried with veggies and protein such as chicken, beef, shrimp, or tofu. The noodles are cooked until somewhat crispy and mixed with a delicious sauce prepared from soy sauce, oyster sauce, and other ingredients. Cabbage, carrots, bell peppers, and bok choy are common chow mein veggies.
Chow mein can be a main meal or a side dish. It’s adaptable to various diets and preferences. Vegetarian or vegan vegetable chow mein is a popular dish.
While on the subject, I’ve recently cooked this quick vegan chow mein recipe. It turned out so well!
Chow mein is a tasty dish with a good combination of carbohydrates, protein, and veggies. It’s a global favorite among Chinese food aficionados.
Chow mein comes in several varieties:
- Vegetable chow mein: Stir-fried veggies and noodles make vegetable chow mein. It usually contains cabbage, carrots, bell peppers, and onions. This is my top choice since it omits meat and seafood.
- Chicken chow mein: Composed of noodles, veggies, and stir-fried chicken.
- Beef chow mein: Like chicken chow mein, but with stir-fried beef.
- Shrimp chow mein: Stir-fried shrimp, veggies, and noodles make up shrimp chow mein.
- Singapore chow mein: Curry powder, veggies, meat or seafood, and noodles make this version hotter.
- Hong Kong-style chow mein: Crispy noodles are deep-fried till golden brown and topped with a stir-fry of meat, veggies, and sauce.
What vegetables to use in chow mein?
Let’s talk about what vegetables go in chow mein recipes first. There is a wide range of options for chow mein.
Some of the most common chow mein veggies include:
Bok choy: Bok choy is used in many Asian recipes, including chow mein. Its mild taste and crisp texture complement the meal. If you don’t have any bok choy on hand, you can also turn to these bok choy substitutes to spice up your veg chow mein.
Carrots: Chow mein often includes carrots. They sweeten and brighten the meal.
Bell peppers: Sweet, tart bell peppers come in many hues. They’re crunchy too.
If you don’t have any bell peppers, you can use these vibrant bell pepper substitutes.
Cabbage: Another famous chow mein veggie is cabbage. Its mild taste and crisp texture complement the noodles. You can use different types of cabbage, such as green cabbage, purple cabbage, and Napa (Chinese cabbage).
Snow peas: Snow peas are flat peas used in stir-fries. They enhance chow mein with their crispness and sweetness.
Mushrooms: Chow mein benefits from mushrooms’ earthiness and meatiness. You can add shiitake, cremini, or white button mushrooms to the mix.
Onions: Onions provide chow mein extra taste and depth. You can chop up some green onions, spring onions or shallots and stir-fry them with other veggies.
You can also try some of these alternatives to green onions for more flavor options!
The aforementioned veggies are easy to find and can contribute taste, texture, and nutrition to chow mein.
What to serve with vegetable chow mein?
Now let’s discuss the best sides to serve with vegetable chow mein for a complete meal:
Chow mein goes well with egg rolls. These crispy, fried rolls are loaded with delicious veggies and pork and served with a sweet and sour sauce. Egg rolls provide crispness to the soft chow mein noodles (we also feature chow mein as one of our favorite pairings for egg rolls!).
If you’re a vegetarian or part-time vegan like me, you can make egg rolls without meat too! Just substitute in some veggie protein like mushrooms and tofu.
Fried rice goes well with chow mein and is a Chinese classic. Fried rice, veggies, eggs, and meat or fish make this meal. Fried rice adds texture and taste to chow mein noodles.
Steamed veggies are a healthy side for chow mein. Chinese broccoli, carrots, and snow peas complement chow mein. Steamed veggies will temper the richness of the noodles and give a refreshing contrast.
Bean sprouts are also a great side for chow mein (or any sprouted mung bean replacement). The crunchy sprouts will bring freshness and lightness to the meal. These alternatives to bean sprouts will also freshen up the plate.
Kung pao Brussels sprouts
Kung pao chicken is a popular spicy stir-fry with chilies, vegetables, chicken, and peanuts. Since I don’t eat chicken, I like making kung pao Brussels sprouts instead.
They turn out crispy and spicy tossed with kung pao sauce. The spiciness of the dish pairs well with the savory chow mein noodles.
Steamed dumplings are one of my favorite veggie chow mein sides. These tasty bites are usually served with a dipping sauce and packed with pork, shrimp, or veggies.
I make steamed dumplings with store-bought wrappers and get creative with the veggie fillings. Chow mein complements the silky dumpling shell and savory contents.
Wonton soup is a warming accompaniment to chow mein. This tasty soup has wontons packed with pork or shellfish in a light broth with veggies. The soup’s warm, soothing broth contrasts with the chow mein’s savory ingredients.
To make a vegetarian version of this soup, just swap out the meat for mushrooms and veggies. Adding some greens like bok choy, napa, baby spinach, broccoli and gai lan (Chinese broccoli) will also make this dish more nutritious.
Have a look at these Chinese broccoli substitutes for more inspiration for your soup!
Spring rolls, like egg rolls, are a great chow mein starter. These rolls are wrapped in thin rice paper instead of egg-based wrappers and filled with veggies and meat. A delicious side dish with a dipping sauce!
Hot and sour soup
If you like spicy and sour flavors, serve a hot and sour soup with chow mein. Mushrooms, bamboo shoots, tofu, and pork are usually added to this spicy, acidic soup. The chow mein’s savory ingredients will pair well with the soup’s strong flavors.
Szechuan green beans are peppery and delicious with chow mein. Served with a savory sauce, these beans are stir-fried with garlic, ginger, and Sichuan peppercorns. The chow mein’s silky noodles will contrast with the green beans’ spice and crunch.
Vegetable chow mein can be served with many wonderful dishes. There’s something for everyone, from traditional Chinese to healthier sides. Enjoy your delicious lunch by trying different combinations.
Meat-based sides for chow mein
Although meat isn’t my thing, I know that many people like pairing chow mein with meat-based sides. So you can also try these ideas:
BBQ pork (char siu)
Char siu is Chinese Barbecued pork eaten as a side or appetizer. Roasted pork is marinated in a sweet-savory marinade. Add protein and flavor to your chow mein with sliced char siu.
Crab rangoon complements chow mein. Cream cheese, crab meat, and sweet and sour sauce fill these fried wontons. Chow mein’s savory tastes pair well with crab rangoon’s creamy filling.
Chinese sweet and sour chicken is a typical main or side dish. Chicken is battered and fried until crispy, then mixed in a sweet and tangy sauce to enjoy with chow mein.
Chow mein FAQs
Chow mein can be a main or side meal. In Chinese restaurants, it’s usually the main entrée but can also be a side.
Woks are deep pans used for stir-frying. It’s perfect for stir-frying veggies and meats because of its spherical bottom. During cooking, the spherical shape prevents food from clinging to the pan’s sides.
Chow mein can be junk food depending on the components. Chow mein can be junk food if it has too much oil, sugar, and salt. It’s healthful when cooked with lean meats, fresh veggies, and healthy spices.
Chicken lo mein is a hearty meal that goes well with egg rolls, potstickers, stir-fried vegetables and hot & sour soup.
Yes, soba noodles can be used in place of traditional chow mein noodles for a delicious twist.
BOTTOM LINE: Chow mein has many fantastic side dishes. This famous Chinese noodle dish goes well with crunchy, creamy, or healthful sides. For a wonderful chow mein dinner, try one of these side dishes.
I hope this information was helpful! Share your favorite chow mein side dishes in the comments.