The words means ‘fried noodles’, chow meaning ‘ fried ‘ and mein meaning ‘ noodles ’, in which the noodles are stir-fried with onions, celery and flavoured with soy sauce. The dish can is most popularly made with chicken ( however you can substitute pork, beef, tofu and in our case king prawns ). Chow mein is one of the original fast foods and there is some evidence that the dish was originally made in northern China where wheat is a staple crop. The dish was popularised by emigrant Chinese workers from Taishan, many of whom worked on building the American railroads, an estimated half a million Chinese Americans are of Taishanese descent.
There are two styles of chow mein, steamed with large, long, round noodles and crispy chow mein which is sometimes known as Hong Kong style chow mein, with fried flat noodles. In early China, chow mein was eaten with a spoon; now everyone eats theirs using chopsticks. One of the earliest chow mein style recipes although not directly called chow mein is from Madame Wu’s Recipe Book written during the Song Dynasty (960 – 1280 CE).
In American chow mein can have any number of additional ingredients, Pak Choi, Mung Beans, Chinese Cabbage, Carrots, and Broccoli and has been readily adapted to suit local tastes, in fact the founder of the food manufacturer Chun King and the creator of canned chow mein admits of using Italian spices to make his product more acceptable to Americans whose ancestors came from Europe. There are adapted recipes for chow mein suiting local tastes in Brazil, Canada, India, Australia and across the Caribbean.
I’ve added water chestnuts and peppers for some extra texture and flavour to my recipe. Adding the sesame oil towards the end of cooking is an authentic tip that will give the dish a glossy finish and a slightly smoky flavour.
King Prawn Chow Mein Serves 4
30 Raw King Prawns
750 gr Soft Egg Noodles, cooked and refreshed.
500 gr Beansprouts
100 gr Water Chestnuts, thinly sliced
6 sticks of Celery, washed, peeled and cut into batons
A small Bunch Spring Onions, sliced in 2 cm pieces
Small Red Pepper, de-seeded and sliced
Small Green Pepper, de-seeded and sliced
Small handful of fresh Coriander, torn
2 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed
5 tablespoons Soy Sauce, or to taste
3 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 tablespoon Sesame Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Carefully peel off the king prawn shells, these can be reserved and frozen to make a shellfish stock. Lay the prawns flat and make a small cut all the way down the back and take out its intestines. You will see this as a black line running down the back of the king prawn. Boil some salted water in a large pan and cook for two minutes until pink.
Next heat the oil in a wok, over a high heat and add the beansprouts, celery, noodles and garlic, cook stirring continuously for two minutes. Next add in the king prawns, spring onions, peppers, and water chestnuts and fry for a further three minutes. Add salt, sesame oil and soy sauce to taste and cook for another two minutes. Stir in the coriander and serve.
For an extra garnish top with some extra finely chopped spring onions.