Cheap Lo Mein

A picture of sesame oil.
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I’ve never been a fan of making Chinese food.   It always seems to involve ingredients I don’t stock and several hours of prep work.   It’s not usually worth the hassle.   Several months ago, I began to notice that, when we went out for Chinese, all of my kids had the same favorite dish: lo mein.   It would be nice to be able to have the dish without having to pay restaurant prices, so I did some research and came up with a quick, easy, and cheap recipe for lo mein.  It takes 3 dishes and 20 minutes.

Lo mein has 3 components: noodles, sauce, and the rest.


I use spaghetti noodles.   I leave them a bit al dente, because they will spend some time in the hot lo mein sauce, which will cook them a bit more.  1 box of noodles is enough for two meals for my family of 5.


  • Chicken broth, 4 cups
  • Rice wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons
  • Sesame oil, 2 tablespoons
  • Red pepper flakes to taste, about 1 teaspoon
  • Soy sauce, 1/4 cup
  • Sugar, 1 teaspoon

Mix it all in a bowl, then wisk until the sugar is dissolved.  Nuke until hot.  I do this while the wok is heating up and the noodles are cooking, so the pepper flavor has a better chance to blend with the liquid.

The Rest

  • Sesame oil
  • Minced garlic
  • 1 Onion, cut to whatever size you like
  • Protein, chopped
  • Vegetables, chopped
  • Ginger powder, to taste

Chop everything first.  When you start cooking, you will be busy cooking, not prepping.

Get the pan hot.   Splash in some oil, then toss in the meat when the oil is hot.   I usually use chicken, but any meat you like–or even no meat at all–will work.

When the meat is almost completely cooked, add the onions and ginger.  Stir constantly.

When the onions are barely translucent, start adding the vegetables, in the order they will take to cook.    You can use any vegetable you want.   Broccoli, carrots, and peas work well.  Whenever the grocery store has a sale on stir-fry vegetable packs, we stock up for about $2/bag.   Just defrost  ’em before you start cooking, so it’s possible to chop them up, and they work great.   Otherwise, any vegetables you have on hand will work.   Add them, and stir constantly.

At some point, toss in a spoonful of minced garlic.  When depends on how much garlic you want to taste.  The earlier you add it, the tamer the flavor.

When it’s all cooked, spoon in some lo mein sauce and toss to coat.  Remove from heat.


Spoon the rest of the sauce over the noodles and toss.  You will have extra sauce, so don’t add it all at once.   You want the noodles coated, not floating.

Combine the noodles with the stir-fry and serve.

If you buy the noodles, vegetables, and meat on sale, this meal costs about $10 to make.  Like I said, that’s two complete meals for 5 people, 3 of whom have adult appetites.  The rice wine vinegar and sesame oil aren’t cheap, but you don’t use much, so the cost per meal is negligible.

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