Pan Fried Noodles vs Lo Mein: The Difference Between Pan Fried Noodles and Lo Mein Explained

Pan Fried Noodles and Lo Mein are delicious Chinese noodle dishes with distinct differences. Pan Fried Noodles are crispy and stir-fried, while Lo Mein is soft and cooked in a sauce. Which one you prefer will depend on your taste and texture preferences.

Pan Fried Noodles vs Lo Mein

Also Read: Vermicelli vs Rice Noodle: Exploring the Differences

AspectPan Fried NoodlesLo Mein
NoodlesCrispy and friedSoft and boiled
Cooking MethodPartially boiled, then friedFully boiled, then stir-fried
SauceThick, starch-thickenedLighter, soy-based
TextureCrispy and crunchySoft and tender
ToppingsStir-fried mixtureStir-fried mixture
Savoury and crispyMixed VegetablesBalanced and versatile
Protein OptionsVarious, often with meatVarious, including meat, shrimp, or tofu
VegetablesMixed vegetablesMixed Vegetables
AvailabilityCommon in Chinese restaurantsCommon in Chinese restaurants and takeout

Also Read: Vermicelli vs glass noodles: Unravelling the Differences between Vermicelli and Glass Noodles

Pan Fried Noodles vs Lo Mein

When it comes to Chinese cuisine, there are many delicious dishes to choose from. Two popular options that often confuse people are pan-fried noodles and lo mein. While they may seem similar, these two dishes have some key differences. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of pan-fried noodles and lo mein and help you understand the unique aspects of each dish.


Pan-fried noodles, also known as chow mein, have their roots in Cantonese cuisine. This dish consists of stir-fried noodles that are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. On the other hand, lo mein is a traditional dish from Northern China. Lo mein translates to “tossed noodles” and refers to boiled noodles and then stir-fried with various vegetables, meats, and sauce.

Cooking Technique

The cooking techniques for pan-fried noodles and lo mein are quite different. Pan-fried noodles are cooked by stir-frying them in a hot wok or pan until they become crispy. This gives the noodles a unique texture and flavour. On the other hand, lo mein noodles are boiled first and then quickly stir-fried with the other ingredients. This method allows the noodles to absorb more flavours from the sauce and other ingredients.


The texture of pan fried noodles and lo mein noodles is another differentiating factor. Pan fried noodles have a crispy exterior and a slightly chewy interior. Combining the crispy and chewy textures makes for a delightful eating experience. On the other hand, lo mein noodles are softer and have a more slippery texture. They are not crispy like pan fried noodles, but they are equally delicious in their own way.

Also Read: Lo Mein vs Chow Mein: What’s the Difference?


Sauce plays a significant role in both pan fried noodles and lo mein. Pan fried noodles are often served with a thick, savoury sauce that coats the crispy noodles. This sauce combines soy sauce, oyster sauce, and other seasonings. On the other hand, lo mein noodles are tossed in a lighter sauce that enhances the flavours of stir-fried vegetables and proteins.


The ingredients used in pan fried noodles and lo mein can vary, but they often include a combination of vegetables, meats, and/or seafood. Both dishes can be made with chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, or a vegetarian option with tofu. However, pan fried noodles tend to have a larger variety of ingredients and are often more loaded with vegetables and proteins.


The presentation of pan fried noodles and lo mein also differs. Pan fried noodles are served as a crispy cake topped with the stir-fried ingredients and sauce. The noodles are kept separate from the sauce until it is time to eat, ensuring they maintain their crispy texture. On the other hand, lo mein is usually presented with the noodles already mixed with the sauce and vegetables, creating a saucy and flavorful dish.

Regional Variations

Both pan fried noodles and lo mein have regional variations across China and other parts of the world. In some regions, pan fried noodles may be thicker and more substantial, while in others, they may be thinner and more delicate. Similarly, lo mein can have different variations depending on the region, with variations in sauce, ingredients, and cooking techniques.

Also Read: Stir Fry vs Fried Rice: Exploring the Differences

Final Comment

While pan fried noodles and lo mein may seem similar, they have distinct characteristics that set them apart. Pan fried noodles are crispy, chewy, and often loaded with ingredients, while lo mein noodles are softer and saucier. Both dishes are delicious and offer unique flavours and textures. Whether you prefer the crispy and savory pan fried noodles or the soft and flavorful lo mein, you can’t go wrong with either choice. So explore the world of Chinese cuisine, one noodle dish at a time!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between pan fried noodles and lo mein?

Pan fried noodles are crispy and fried until golden brown, while lo mein noodles are soft and boiled. Pan fried noodles are also typically stir-fried with sauce and vegetables, while lo mein noodles are tossed in sauce.

Can I use regular spaghetti noodles for lo mein?

You can use regular spaghetti noodles as a substitute for lo mein noodles. However, the texture and taste may be slightly different.

Are pan fried noodles gluten-free?

No, pan fried noodles are made with wheat flour and are not gluten-free.

What kind of sauce is used in lo mein?

Lo mein is usually tossed in a savoury sauce made with soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and other seasonings.

Can I use other vegetables in pan fried noodles?

Yes, you can use a variety of vegetables such as bell peppers, carrots, snow peas, and mushrooms in pan fried noodles.

Is lo mein a healthy dish?

Lo mein can be a relatively healthy dish if it is made with lean proteins and plenty of vegetables. However, it’s essential to watch the portion size and be mindful of the amount of sauce used.

Can I make pan fried noodles ahead of time?

Pan fried noodles are best enjoyed immediately after cooking to maintain their crispiness. If you make them ahead of time, they may lose their texture and become soggy.

Can I add meat to lo mein?

Yes, you can add your choice of meat, such as chicken, beef, shrimp, or pork, to lo mein. When tossing in the sauce, cook the meat separately and add it to the noodles and vegetables.

How do I reheat leftover lo mein?

To reheat leftover lo mein, gently heat it in a skillet with oil or in the microwave with a damp paper towel to prevent drying.


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