Chow Mein is a Chinese term for a dish of stir-fried noodles, of which there are many varieties. The pronunciation chow mein comes from the Taishan dialect of Chinese, spoken by immigrants from Taishan to America.
Many West Indian people include chow mein in their cuisine, especially peoples from islands like Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica which include a significant ethnic Chinese population; much of the cooking has infused itself into the population in general.
These chow mein dishes are cooked in a similar manner, with green beans, carrots, peas, onions and sometimes other vegetables. Meat used is mostly chicken and sometimes pork and/or shrimp. The main difference is that local spices are added, and the dish is often served with hot Scotch bonnet peppers and/or pepper sauce.
Curiously, Chow Mein is one of the dishes my mother used to make on special occasions when I was a child. In my immediate family there aren’t any Chinese relatives, but in a country like Panama, it is not surprising that within my extended family we have a few Asian descendants. If I recall correctly, my mother learned to make this recipe while helping one of these relatives at their home and the dish became one of her star dishes. And one of my favorite too!
What I like the most is its versatility; it can be perfectly suited to our preferences. We may use almost any meat and/or vegetables at our disposition.
I, for instance didn’t have any green pepper, so I used red peppers instead; as for water chestnuts I did not bother to look for them, because I doubt my mother would have used them in her recipe…too fancy 😉
Hope you like it.
- 500 g of pork steak (beef, chicken, shrimps…)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 4 tablespoons sesame oil
- 4 cups chopped cabbage
- 2 cups carrot sticks
- 2 cups chopped celery
- 1 ½ cup chopped onion (into strips)
- 1 ½ cup red bell pepper (or green), cut into strips
- 1 small can water chestnuts (optional)
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 500 g of fresh or dried chow Mein noodles or other Chinese egg noodles
Chop the steaks into thin strips, removing excess fat. Season with salt, black pepper and garlic. Fry in half the oil until golden brown.
Add 2 cups of water and cook the meat over medium heat until the water is completely consumed and the meat is tender. Reserve.
Heat the remaining oil; add the cabbage, carrot, celery, onion and red or green pepper. Sauté, stirring constantly, until the vegetables are al dente. Add water chestnuts (if using), meat and soy sauce mixed with cornstarch.
Cook, stirring well, until it boils and the sauce thickens.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles in salted boiling water, according to package directions.
Drain the noodles and mix with meat and vegetables.