You could skip across the country and find many amazing varieties of chicken lo mein from Chinese restaurants tucked in a little carton and ready for consumption. However, if you get in the mood for some Chinese takeout and there is not a restaurant in sight, you will definitely be trying to conjure up a good recipe you can try at home. The only problem is, when most at-home chefs try to replicate what they are used to eating out, they find that the savory flavor they are expecting just comes up short. Here are a few simple secrets to get your at-home chicken lo mein to taste a little closer to what you would expect to get a dining establishment.
The wok hay
It may sound a little strange if you are not accustomed to preparing Chinese cuisine at home, but wok hay is very important. You can use your shiny new wok all day to try and get the right flavor, but if the wok is not well-used and seasoned to perfection, there is no way your lo mein noodles and veggies will have the same savory flavor. Wok hay is a Chinese reference to the flavoring that is emitted by a well-used wok. "Hay" actually translates straight to "breath" in the Chinese language, so essentially, cooking in a well-seasoned wok means that the food will capture the savory breath of the steaming wok.
Capturing wok hay at home can be a hard thing to achieve unless you have a wok that you have been preparing Chinese cuisine in for years. However, you can help to achieve better wok hay by seasoning your own wok, even if it is new, which will give it a more searing, non-stick quality.
Adequate cooking temperature
Even with an incredible seasoned wok and all of the right ingredients, your noodles may come out a little greasy and your veggies less than crisp when you cook at home. If this is the case with your at-home chicken lo mein, it is likely due to the fact that the average stove does not provide high enough heat temperatures to cook the food quickly. The average Chinese restaurant often uses a high BTU burner. This is because cooking in a wok works best at temperatures of around 400 degrees, which can be hard to achieve with a regular electric burner.
After a few attempts at cooking chicken lo mein at home on your own, you may be tempted to throw in the towel, forget the wok, and drive to a Chinese restaurant like Lilac Blossom Restaurant for what your taste buds crave. However, if you are persistent with your efforts, and take note of the Chinese chef secrets, you may find that you can recreate your favorite dish very closely.