It comes along very rarely and is often born of frugal intent and this is one of those dishes that is darn near perfect. I love a good lo mien. I love it but I don’t love the take out price of $16.99 for a bunch of noodles and veggies. Frankly, even for take out that seems pricy to me given that it does not include the time, gas and effort needed to go and get takeout or to pay to have someone deliver it to your door step. So, I set about creating my own recipe for this take out favorite. I have refined it to the point that it only takes minutes to assemble and create and my partner, who is deeply suspicious of any efforts to get him to eat more vegetables, calls this the Perfect Dish. The best part of this dish is that you only need to keep a few set ingredients on hand, everything else is whatever you happen to have on hand.
The Perfect Dish
Ingredients you need to have:
Hoisin sauce 1/2 cup
Vegetable or chicken stock, 1/4 cup
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I use low sodium because this recipe has plenty of salty snap)
Garnish: All bagel topping and sliced green onions
Olive oil, a couple of tablespoons
Noodles of some kind (you can use Chinese chow mien egg noodles but plain old cheap spaghetti works just as well)
Small knob of ginger root (I keep mine in the freezer)
3 garlic cloves
Ingredients you scavenge from your fridge:
8 – 10 cups vegetables cut into bite sized pieces (thinly sliced carrots, coins of celery, chopped bok choy, sliced mushrooms, rings of sweet peppers, snow peas, bean sprouts, canned water chestnuts, spinach, swiss chard, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.)
Half block of extra firm Tofu cut into bite sized pieces or 8 ounces of sliced meat or poultry (I’ve used chicken, pork and beef all sliced thin) You can also forgo this ingredient and keep the dish vegetarian
Method: You should have three pans/pots will be going at once but it goes quickly!
Heat the oil in two pans if cooking a protein. Sauté the meat/poultry/tofu in one pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to package directions in boiling water. Grate a tablespoon of ginger root into the warming oil in the other pan. Grate the garlic cloves in the same pan and sauté for a minute or two in the oil to bloom the flavors. Add all the vegetables. Sauté for about 8 minutes on medium high heat, making sure to not overcook. You want crispy veggies for sure in this dish. In a cup, mix the hoisin sauce, stock and soy, whisking well. Pour a couple of tablespoons of the sauce over the meat/poultry/tofu and set aside. Mix the rest of the sauce into the veggies, adding the drained noodles in as quickly as possible so they soak up the sauce. Stir to coat and add in any protein you cooked. Top with bagel topping and sliced green onions. This dish comes together very quickly, especially if you prep your veggies early in the day. I also sneak chili crisps on top of mine as an extra treat. Costs pennies and the typical bottle of hoisin will give you three meals of this dish. I have very conservatively calculated that the average cost of this dish is under $5; less than $8 with meat which I frugally take from other meals to use in this dish. When cooking another dish, I will par-freeze the chicken, pork or beef to easily slice it thinly and then re-freeze it for lo mien night. Because I slice it thin, I don’t even bother to defrost, it cooks in minutes. In a pinch you could use powdered ginger spice if you did not have ginger root. I use olive oil because I am not stir-frying at super high temperatures but any basic vegetable oil would serve as well. I buy little jars of all bagel topping at the dollar store and use it for a topping because it has several kinds of sesame seeds in it. The green onions I snip from my garden real time. They cost nothing because I grew them from roots of green onions so they are the gardening gift that keeps on giving. I do pick up water chestnuts in the can from time to time when I find them on sale and hoard them for this dish but the dish is fine without it. My partner has no clue just how many vegetables he has eaten in the creation of this dish. He thinks he’s never even tried bok choy or water chestnuts but oh yes, he certainly has. Like I said, the perfect dish.