Fried Noodles or Chow Mein


½ lb (225 g) egg noodles or spaghetti

½ lb (225 g) meat (pork, beef or chicken) 

1 tsp salt 

½ tsp sugar 

1 tsp corn starch 

¼ lb (100 g) bamboo shoots

¼ lb (100 g) leaf spinach (or young greens) 

4 tbsp oil 

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp rice wine or sherry

1-2 spring onions, thinly shredded 

a few drops sesame seed oil

Fried Noodles or Chow Mein


1. If you cannot get Chinese noodles, then use spaghetti (or the finer spaghettini) or noodles, tagliatelle or vermicelli. Allow at least 2 oz (50 g) per person. If you are lucky enough to live near an Oriental food store or Italian delicatessen, you may be able to get freshly made noodles which taste far better, cooked, than the dried variety. 

2. First, shred the meat into small, thin strips and mix in a pinch each of salt, sugar and corn starch.. Then shred the bamboo shoots into thin strips. Wash the spinach leaves or greens and cut them into shreds too. Now cook the noodles in boiling water according to the instructions on the packet. (Normally this would take about 5 minutes, but freshly made noodles will take only 2 minutes or less). Be careful not to overcook them, or they will become soggy. Drain the noodles and rinse in cold water, then drain again. 

3. Heat about 2 tablespoons oil in a hot wok, stir-fry the meat and vegetable together with salt for about 1½ minutes, add the wine and a little corn starch mixed with cold water to thicken the sauce. Remove and set aside to be used as 'dressing'. 

4. Heat the remaining oil until smoking, add the noodles and spring onions, stir like mad to separate them, then add soy sauce and about half of the 'dressing'. Continue stirring for another ½ minute or so, then serve with the remaining 'dressing' on top and garnished with sesame seed oil. 

5. This is a basic recipe for chow mein, and it never fails to please eager eaters, big and small - it is a firm favorite with both my daughters and their friends. Of course you can substitute any of the ingredients as you like: for instance, the meat could be beef, ham, chicken or prawns; the vegetables could be cabbage, lettuce, cucumber, green beans, mange-touts peas, broccoli or asparagus. The thing to remember here is the contrast of texture and color. 

6. Strictly speaking, you are not supposed to serve this dish as a main meal, and definitely not at the same time as rice - just as you would not serve potatoes and spaghetti together. Noodle dishes in China are normally served in between meals as a snack. Traditionally, though, they are always served at birthday celebrations, partly because the length of noodles represents long life to a Chinese mind.


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