This classic noodle dish is known as "鼓油王炒面," which translates roughly to “Supreme Soy Sauce Pan Fried Noodles.” (Also, chow mein = pan fried noodles.)
It’s traditionally more of a breakfast or lunch kind of dish, and especially popular at dim sum or served alongside congee.
Why is it called Supreme Soy Sauce Chow Mein?
Its name is based on the most dominant ingredient: soy sauce. To allow that flavor to shine, supreme soy sauce chow mein is always served without meat.
You can certainly cook this with beef or anything else you'd like, but then the dish wouldn't be called "supreme soy sauce chow mein," it'd be called "beef chow mein."
Even if it's cooked exactly the same way, adding beef to the dish would overpower the aroma of the soy sauce.
On soy sauce
Soy sauce dates back to around 2200 years ago during China’s Han Dynasty. Much like congee and rice, soy sauce was originally developed to stretch salt, which used to be a very expensive commodity. It has since become one of the most common and important ingredients in all of Asian cuisine.
In Cantonese, soy sauce is called “sih yàuh 豉油,” and there are a ton of different names and variations of it across Asia.
Traditionally, Chinese soy sauce is produced by fermenting soybeans and grains, brewing with some sort of salt, purifying and pasteurizing, and then it’s either stored for further aging or bottled immediately for distribution.
It’s primarily during this final step where dark soy sauce differs from light soy sauce.
In Cantonese, dark soy sauce is known as “lóuh chāu 老抽,” which roughly translates to “old extract,” a reference to a longer aging process than its younger brother, light soy sauce, or “sāang chāu 生抽.” Dark soy sauce is also commonly mixed with mushrooms, caramel coloring, and molasses.
If you don’t have dark soy sauce, you can skip it and substitute it with light soy sauce which is generally easier to buy. You can also check below for links to buy dark soy sauce online.
Check out a quick story summary of our recipe!