This fast and delicious pork lo mein is loaded with noodles, meat, and plenty of vegetables—a complete meal in one wok (or skillet).
Preparing a stir-fry for us has become a game of time-shaving. A dish that’s already designed for the quick, hot pan treatment is made even more satisfying when you can snip a minute of prep here and there, or improve the efficiency of the cooking stage using that one weird trick (“Chinese restaurants hate them!”). Well, we’re using that one weird trick here, and here’s the essence of it: we soak the pork strips beforehand, for just 15 minutes, in a baking soda solution. This helps the pork stay really tender. More on this below.
Note: This recipe is part of our on-going series with Serious Eats. You can also find this recipe, and other great ones, on their site.
We like using inexpensive country-style boneless pork ribs for this, cutting them down into small strips. Cutting everything small is important in a stir-fry, because you want it all to cook through quickly. You can also use boneless loin chops here, although we recommend sticking with the rib cut if you can find it, since it’s got more marbling and is therefore more flavorful.
To make sure the pork stays nice and tender, even when smacked with the high heat of a wok, we first soak it for 15 minutes in a baking soda solution. This is a trick we picked up from Cook’s Illustrated, and, having tested it side by side with unsoaked pork, we can confirm it makes a huge difference. Thanks to the alkalizing effects of the baking soda, the pork retains more moisture and tenderness, even as it browns and crisps on its exterior—an important step for building flavor, but one that can toughen up the meat at the same time.
For the vegetables, we choose a colorful array of add-ins, including thinly shredded purple cabbage, bright green Chinese broccoli (though you can substitute Napa cabbage), and thin strips of julienned carrot. Garlic, ginger, and scallions, meanwhile, add aromatic depth, if not much color.
The challenge with stir-frying at home is that most home ranges don’t have a powerful enough burner to stir-fry in big batches, like restaurants do. The solution is to break the stir-fry into stages, which avoids overcrowding the pan. We start by searing the vegetables in smoking-hot oil, then transfer them to a plate—they should be singed here and there, while still retaining a fresh bite.
Next, we add the pork to the wok, browning it in a fresh dose of smoking oil. As soon as it’s taken on a bit of color in spots and cooked through, we scrape it out of the wok, then repeat with the lo mein noodles (which we’ve boiled in advance). The noodles should get nice and hot as you toss and stir them, and should also take on a little color of their own. This all translates to deeper flavor.
To finish off the stir-fry, we add the vegetables and pork back to the wok along with the noodles, and toss it all together with a flavorful sauce made from soy and oyster sauces, rice wine, and Chinese black vinegar. There’s just enough cornstarch in the sauce to help it thicken up and coat everything in a very light glaze.
We like serving this with some sambal oelek (chili garlic sauce) at the table. That way, anyone who wants a punch of heat can stir some in. All in all, this dish comes together in a little more than half an hour, making it perfect for that weeknight when you don’t want to hang around in the kitchen more than you have to. Fresh, tasty, colorful, and balanced lo mein—no delivery required.
- 1 lb. (450g) fresh lo mein noodles
- 1 lb. (450g) country-style boneless pork ribs or boneless loin chops
- 1 teaspoon (3g) baking soda
- 3 tablespoons (40g) sugar
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) Chinese black vinegar (or use balsamic)
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) chinese rice wine (shaoxing) or dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) fish sauce
- 3 teaspoons (10g) cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) grape seed or other neutral oil, divided
- 1½ cups (5 ounces, 150g) shredded Chinese broccoli or napa cabbage
- 1 cup (2.5 ounces, 75g) shredded carrots
- 1½ cups (5 ounces, 150g) shredded purple cabbage
- 1 (3-inch) knob fresh ginger, peeled and minced (about 2 tablespoons; 12g)
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 4 scallions, white parts chopped in 1-inch pieces, green tops finely chopped
- Boil fresh Chinese lo mein noodles until just cooked, according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
- Whisk all sauce ingredients together in bowl. Set aside.
- Trim pork of excess fat and cut into thin strips (about ¼ inch wide by 2 inches long). In a bowl, combine baking soda and ½ cup cold water. Add pork, stir and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Rinse pork in cold water. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels. Add pork back to the rinsed and dried bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the sauce and mix well.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large (12 inch) cast iron pan or wok on medium-high heat. Add the ginger, garlic and white scallions bottoms and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add cabbage, Chinese broccoli, if using, and carrots. Cook until vegetables are charred in spots and just softened, 3-5 minutes. Remove to a plate.
- Add the last tablespoon oil. Make sure pan is hot and add pork in a single layer. spreading it out as much as possible. Let pork sear on one side until crisp and brown, 2-3 minutes. Stir and cook another minute, until just cooked through. Add the sauce. Stir in the vegetables and noodles and toss well to combine. Sprinkle over scallion greens and serve immediately.