Published September 1, 2008.
Pork lo mein is full of ingredients we love—fresh egg noodles, smoky barbecued pork, and pungent Chinese vegetables. So why can’t takeout joints deliver a winning version?
Ordinary, takeout pork lo mein invariably disappoints with greasy flavors and sodden vegetables.
We wanted a dish representative of the best that a good Chinese home cook could turn out: chewy noodles tossed in a salty-sweet sauce and accented with bits of smoky char siu (barbecued pork) and still-crisp cabbage.
First we needed to tackle the char siu, preferably perfecting a stir-fried version since we were already stir-frying the vegetables. Country-style pork ribs won for best cut. Though fatty, these meaty ribs have the same rich flavor of pork shoulder—but don’t need to be cooked for hours since they’re naturally tender. To avoid an overly greasy dish, we trimmed the fat and cut the meat into thin strips that would allow our classic Chinese marinade to penetrate effectively. We seared the strips over high heat, giving us tender and juicy meat with a crisp, browned exterior. Adding a few drops of liquid smoke added a characteristic char siu smoky flavor.
Turning to the noodles, only ones labeled “lo mein” at the Asian market won raves. The more readily available “Chinese-style” noodles disappointed us. Fortunately, dried linguine, cooked to al dente, worked beautifully. For the vegetables, we opted for traditional choices—cabbage, scallions, and shiitake mushrooms—stir-frying them with garlic and fresh ginger. We used our meat marinade as a sauce base, with a little chicken broth and a teaspoon of cornstarch added for body. A splash of Asian garlic-chili sauce added a little kick. We diverged from tradition and catered to American tastes by treating the additions as more than just a garnish to the noodles; we both quadrupled the amount of pork and increased the vegetables by several cups to make a richer yet fresher-tasting dish.list of recipes