Maybe you tried every dish on the menu of every traditional Chinese restaurant you’ve been to and you consider yourself something of an expert, but do you know the difference between Lo Mein and Mei Fun?
Many people confuse the two signature noodles in Chinese cuisine, but we are here today to give you all the details you need to know about these dishes.
Keep on reading and join us on this delicious journey through the differences between Mei Fun vs Lo Mein.
What is Mei Fun?
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Mei Fun is originally from China and it’s a noodle made from rice and water.
It’s now used all across the world, but especially in Asian countries and cuisine. While the main ingredients should be only rice and water, there are more variations with added flavors and colors.
It’s a versatile type of noodle that can be served in stir-fries, soups, and even spring rolls. Most of the time you will find it as Mei Fun, but it can be sold as vermicelli, rice noodles, and rice sticks.
How does Mei Fun look like?
This fragile noodle is made from rice flour and water in most cases and it’s dried in loose bundles.
Besides rice, this vermicelli can have added beans, wheat, eggs, and tapioca. If it’s made just from rice and water it’s completely gluten-free and thus an amazing option for people who are not tolerant.
While Mei Fun is dry it looks semi-transparent with a white core. It can be stored this way for a very long time or until you are ready to make a delicious meal.
Once the noodle is cooked it will become completely white and this is one of the things that will set it apart from other types of noodles.
What kind of Mei Fun dishes are there?
Mei Fun actually refers to the noodles used in a dish, but it can also be used to describe the dish with a few words added, like Singapore mei fun or Chow mei fun.
There are various dishes that include this delicious and light noodle, and it all depends on the restaurant or even the country that you are eating in.
Every dish that contains mei fun usually has a rich sauce, vegetables, and some kind of protein. The protein can be pork, shrimp, eggs, or something else. And the vegetables added are usually fresh and crunchy like cabbage, onions, carrots, and bean sprouts.
The point with rice noodles is to complement the crunchy consistency of other ingredients. While the flavor is mild, the texture is something this noodle will bring to the table.
How to cook with Mei Fun?
Cooking with dry noodles like these ones is easy. All you have to do is cover them with hot (not boiling) water and wait a few minutes. Once the mei fun is re-hydrated it will become completely white and pliable.
You don’t have to cook the noodles, as they will be part of a dish that needs cooking like soup or stir-fry. The texture needs to stay crisp and slightly crunchy, so don’t overcook your vermicelli.
What is Lo Mein?
Lo Mein is not just a different type of noodle than Mei Fun, but it’s also prepared in a different way. If you want to translate this dish literally it would mean tossed or stirred noodles. This represents the way these dishes are made by stirring them into vegetables and meat.
What does Lo Mein look like?
This noodle and dishes made from it contain eggs and wheat, so it’s not gluten-free and has more yellowish tones because of the ingredients.
They are usually more chunky and thick, and at the same time very absorbent.
It’s an amazing addition to many soups and broths, but it’s also often served with vegetables and different meats. Depending on the sauces used it will take on slightly darker colors while cooking.
How to cook with Lo Mein?
These noodles are partially boiled for a few minutes before they are added to vegetables and meat, where they continue to cook.
It’s important to remember that noodles in Asian cuisine are not to be over-cooked because they need to be added to different dishes and maintain their texture. Lo Mein might not be as crunchy as Mei Fun, but it will complement any sauce, mushrooms, and tomatoes added to the dish.
What is the difference between Mei Fun and Lo Mein?
While many people are able to describe their favorite Chinese food, not many are aware of the subtle differences between them.
Most of the time we can see that there are noodles, vegetables, and some kind of protein, but in reality, there are so many more interesting things you can learn. Keep in mind that in some parts of China Mei Fun is just a noodle while Lo Mein is an entire dish.
So, is there anything you need to know about Mei Fun or Lo Mein? Yes, keep on reading to become the expert on the matter.
One of the most important things that are different between these two types of noodles is the ingredient list.
Mei Fun noodles are made from rice and water, as this is the traditional way they have been prepared for hundreds of years. Sometimes there are added ingredients, but if you are looking for rice vermicelli there should be no addition on the ingredient list.
Lo Mein noodles are prepared from wheat bases and eggs. They can have more ingredients as they are quite versatile and people usually know they are not gluten-free.
This might not sound like a huge difference, but it can be if you are not gluten tolerant. Any dish that has Mei Fun in it is more likely to be gluten-free if you choose the rest of the ingredients carefully.
Just make sure that the Mei Fun is produced just with water and rice, and that the factory is optimized for non-gluten production. This can be hard to tell if you are eating in a restaurant, but most of the time this will be a better option for people with allergies.
2. Cooking Time
Mei Fun are dried noodles while Lo Mein stirred noodles are usually fresh. You can taste the difference in the texture once they are cooked, but the cooking process is different for both of them.
Fresh types of noodles like Lo Mein need 2 to 3 minutes in boiling water to get the best consistency, while Mei Fun noodles that are dry need 5 to 6 minutes of parboiling. This means partially boiling the noodles and then adding them to your favorite dish.
Both noodles are added to either vegetable in a wok or a pot of boiling soup, so the cooking process will continue. This is why it’s important to make sure you are not over-processing them because they will become mushy.
Once you realize all the differences in these two types of noodles you can tell them apart just by looking.
While they are equally delicious, Mei Fun, or rice noodles, are usually delicate-looking and white, while Lo Mein noodles have a thicker consistency and yellowish color.
Depending on the dish and the rest of the ingredients these two noodles can be confused, but now you know that there is a slight difference in the look.
Mei fun is a dry type of rice noodles and as such it will remain crunchy even after cooking in hot water and added to various dishes. Unlike Lo Mein that will have more volume and softer texture without the crunch.
Because of the added starch in rice mei fun can become slightly more sticky and bundle up together. A few drops of sesame or chili oil should resolve this, just don’t add too much or the dish will become too oily.
Both are equally delicious, but depending on your preferences and the dish you want to prepare or order, take the texture into consideration.
Chinese noodles are never the star of a dish, and the same can be said for Mei Fun and Lo Mein. However, they are an amazing addition that will not overwhelm the flavor but will have slight differences in taste.
Because the traditional Mei Fun is made from rice and water the taste is mild with hints of sweetness.
On the other hand, Lo Mein has a fuller taste and absorbs the sauce even better. So, depending on your taste you can choose one or the other, but it’s comforting to know that they are delicious either way.
6. Applications in cooking
One more way you can make a difference between Lo Mein and Mei Fun is the dishes created with them. You can use them both in soups and with stir-fries but keep in mind that Lo Mein usually has more sauce because it’s absorbent.
While Mei Fun can be a crunchy addition to spring rolls and vegetables, Lo Mein is amazing with meat, broths, and with different mushrooms, tomatoes, and beans.
Are Mei Fun and Lo Mein the same?
Many people will confuse Lo Mein vs Mei Fun while in reality, they are completely different.
For starters, we need to understand that Mei Fun primarily means a type of noodle, while Lo Mein means the way in which the noodles are prepared. So, it’s not that comparable if you are looking into the origins of these two.
Over the years, as the popularity of Chinese cuisine grew, these two types of noodles became staples in menus. This is why people often confuse them as being the same thing in Chinese dishes that include vegetables and meat.
When you are not sure what noodle is used, take another look at our table of differences:
- If it’s white and crunchy, most of the time those are Mei Fun or rice noodles.
- If the dish is soft and chewy, it’s Lo Mein. It has eggs and wheat, so be careful if you are allergic to gluten.
Either way, with added soy sauce, chili oil, vegetables, and meat you will have one amazing dish, in the end, no matter what kind of noodles are used.
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