What is the Difference Between Noodles and Chow Mein

The main difference between noodles and chow mein is that noodles are thin and long strips made from flour, while chow-mein is a dish made using noodles.

In fact, the term ‘chow’ means fried and ‘mein’ means noodles. Therefore, chow mein refers to a dish made with fried noodles. In brief,  all chow mein dishes are noodles, but all noodles are not chow mein.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Noodles 
     – Definition, Features, Ingredients
2. What is Chow Mein
     – Definition, Features, Ingredients
3. Relationship Between Noodles and Chow Mein
     – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Noodles and Chow Mein
    – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Chow Mein, NoodlesDifference Between Noodles and Chow mein - Comparison Summary

What is Noodles

Noodles are a popular staple dish in many Asian countries. They are made from flour dough which is shaped into various styles such as strips or strings. Then the shaped noodle is left to be boiled until they become soft. After that, the softened noodle is allowed to cool down. The cooled down noodle is further used in preparing a variety of dishes.

What is Noddles

Noodle dough can be made with different ingredients such as wheat, potato, rice, bean, etc. Therefore they come in different flavours. There are different methods of cooking noodles: boiling, deep-frying, stir-frying, blanching, etc. When you go to a Chinese restaurant, it will be strange to ask for “noodles” because there are just too many variations, including vegetables, mushrooms, fish, beef, egg, pork, chicken, or any other protein.

What is Chow Mein

Chow mein refers to a Chinese stir-fried noodles dish often served with vegetables and sometimes with tofu or meat. Chow men is a popular noodle dish not only within China but also in Chinese restaurants all around the world.

Since chow mein dish is pan-fried, the noodles get a nice crisp to them. Noodle lovers often love to taste these noodles tossed in a thick, dark, homemade yummy sauce. This sweet and sour sauce is usually made with soy sauce, oyster sauce,  light sesame oil, cornstarch, granulated sugar, and chicken broth. Chow mein soaked in the sauce has the perfect balance of sweet and salty and might not give you a chance to put down your chopsticks until you finish the whole dish.

What is Chow Mein

When you are preparing chow mein, you can either use a combination of traditional vegetables such as carrots, cabbage, green bean sprouts and onions or even any other vegetables you can find easily inside your refrigerator – spinach, baby corn, celery, broccoli, or kale.

Relationship Between Noodles and Chow Mein

  1. Chow mein is a type of noodle dish.
  2. Noodles and chow mein originated among the Chinese communities.
  3. Both noodles and chow mein come in different flavours and can be prepared mixed with vegetables, seafood or other proteins such as beef, pork or chicken.
  4. Both are popular dishes among the Chinese and non-Chinese communities all around the world.
  5. They can be served dipped in a yummy sauce.

Difference Between Noodles and Chow mein


Noodles are thin and long strips made with flour dough while chow mein is a type of fried noodle dish.


In preparing chow mein you usually stir fry them. Therefore, they have a crispier texture compared to soft boiled noodles. 

Style of Preparation

When you prepare noodles, the boiled noodle is mixed with veggies, fish or meat and then served plainly or soaked in a broth, whereas when preparing chow mein, boiled noodles are tossed and then deep-fried until they get a crunchier texture and then a variety of sauces and vegetables are mixed in to make the final dish.


The main difference between noodles and chow mein is that noodles are made up of flour dough and then soft boiled, while chow mein is what you get when these noodles are fried. When you visit a Chinese food court, both noodle and chow mein dishes will look similar to you. However, if you are a hard-core food fan of Chinese cuisine, it won’t be hard for you to identify the difference between the two dishes just by looking at them.


1. “Stir Fry Chicken NoodlesChow Mein.” Cooking with Morgane.
2. “Chow Mein.” RecipeTin Eats.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Ramen Cooking Hot Soup Noodles Japan Food” (CC0) via Max Pixel
2. “Vietnamese Chow Mein” By Herman Saksono (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) via Flickr

About the Author: Anuradha

Anuradha has a BA degree in English, French, and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Master's degree in Teaching English Literature in a Second Language Context. Her areas of interests include Arts and Literature, Language and Education, Nature and Animals, Cultures and Civilizations, Food, and Fashion.

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