I have solidly documented Gary’s love of stir-fries on this website. What I may not have done justice to is his love of stir fries that involve noodles. If I say I am making a stir fry, or any kind of Asian food at all, he will look up hopefully and say, “With noodles?” Slightly childlike, certainly predictable, but mostly endearing.
Lo mein is one of those dishes we can’t resist on a Chinese take-out menu, but that may not have made its way into your home kitchen. It should—it is just a stir-fry with noodles.
Making it at home means that you can use much less oil than most restaurants do; this is definitely one of those dishes that seems to give off a real shimmer in many Chinese restaurants, and having seen the amount of oil that can be used in some establishments, it’s a good one to bring into your home cooking repertoire.
This lo mein recipe happens to feature shrimp, but in two shakes you’ll see how you can make a vegetarian version, or a chicken version, or a steak or pork version of this ever popular Chinese-American dish.
How to Make Shrimp Lo Mein
Start by cooking the noodles and setting them aside, and mixing up the simple stir fry sauce so they are ready to roll when you need them. You can use Chinese noodles instead of thin spaghetti if those are available to you—just cook them according to package directions and make sure not to cook them past just tender.
Then saute your shrimp, not until they are all the way cooked through, but just until they get a bit firm and pink. Set them aside.
In the same skillet (or wok) saute some vegetables, in this case broccoli, carrots and red bell pepper. You can also bump up the ratio of vegetables and shrimp to noodles, resulting in a meal that looks and tastes great, and does the right thing by your family nutritionally. My kids never flinch at a vegetable when it’s in the context of a stir fry.
Use whatever vegetables you have around, and get the kids engaged in choosing which ones to swap in or add: chopped kale, asparagus, broccoli rabe, or cabbage, sugar snap peas, snow peas, spinach, other colors of bell pepper… pretty much any vegetables can work in this flexible dish. You could also add a couple of teaspoons of minced fresh ginger when you add the garlic to the pan, for a bright, spicy note.
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Return the shrimp to the pan.
And add the sauce, and stir to mix. Then in go the cooked noodles and toss to combine everything.
Serve shrimp lo mein, with some sliced scallions for a nice fresh final touch.
Cornstarch in Stir Frying
Cornstarch is a thickening agent, and often added to recipes after being mixed in with a bit of liquid. When the cornstarch is heated in the sauce, it allows the sauce to thicken, thanks to its chemical structure, and the sauce can really cling to the noodles and vegetables in this recipe. In other recipes, such as fried chicken, it can be used (sometimes blended in with flour) to provide extra crispness.
Vegetarian Lo Mein
You can use vegetable broth and leave out the shrimp for a fully vegetarian lo mein. You could also sauté the about ½ pound shrimp in one pan with a teaspoon of oil, and then add a teaspoon of oil to that pan, and to a second pan. When heated, divide the vegetables between the pan you used to sauté the shrimp and the second pan. Divide the noodles and sauce evenly between the two pans, return the shrimp to the pan you started cooking the shrimp in and you will have one version that’s vegetarian and one’s that features shrimp.
What the Kids Can Do
This is a nice opportunity to let kids pick the vegetables they like to include in this recipe. They can also peel the carrots, measure and mix up the ingredients for the sauce, and peel the shrimp (wash hands thoroughly before and after!)
More Stir Fry Recipes:
- Shrimp, Sugar Snap Pea and Scallion Stir Fry with Miso Sauce
- Shrimp and Broccoli Stir Fry with Udon Noodles
- Chicken, Broccoli and Sugar Snap Pea Stir Fry
- Lemon and Scallion Chicken Stir Fry
- Chicken and Cabbage Stir Fry with Miso Sauce
- Chicken and Spinach Stir-Fry with Ginger and Oyster Sauce
- Spicy Stir Fried Beef and Vegetables
- Chicken Stir Fry with Peanuts
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Shrimp Lo Mein
- ½ pound thin spaghetti
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ¾ cup reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons less-sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil divided
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 cups very small broccoli florets
- ¾ cup thinly sliced carrots
- ¾ cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
- 1 pound peeled and deveined extra large shrimp
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the salt to the water, return the water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions, stopping two minutes or so before it is fully cooked. Drain the pasta.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl or container, combine the broth, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar, sesame oil, and pepper.
- In a large skillet or wok over high heat, heat 1 ½ teaspoons of the oil, then add the shrimp and sauté until the shrimp are almost (but not quite!) cooked, about 2 minutes. Transfer them to a plate and set aside. Add the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons of oil to the skillet, add the garlic, broccoli, carrots, and red pepper and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes until everything starts to soften.
- Return the shrimp to the pan along with the drained pasta and the sauce. Toss (tongs are great for this) over the high heat until the noodles absorb some of the sauce , everything is well mixed, and the rest of the sauce is slightly thickened, another 2 minutes or so. Serve hot.
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