My dad recently turned 75, and in typical Daddy Lau fashion, he went ALL OUT for his birthday feast.
As he usually does, he decided to include vegetable lo mein in his epic 12 course feast.
I've had some variation of this dish at almost every Chinese birthday celebration or banquet I've ever been to.
A Symbol of Longevity
In Chinese tradition, noodles are a symbol of longevity, and it’s typical to celebrate birthdays, weddings, and big life milestones with noodles. The connection is simple - noodles are long, so they’ve become a metaphor for a long life, a long marriage, and longevity.
A Brief History of the Noodle
Noodles have been a staple of Chinese cuisine for thousands of years.
The first written record of noodles appeared about 2000 years ago in a book written during the Han Dynasty, and in 2005, archaeologists unearthed a fully preserved 4000 year old bowl of noodles in northwestern China.
This marks the earliest empirical evidence of noodles to date.
It's still debated as to which culture or region started incorporating noodles into their diet first. (Was it the Italians? The Arabs? The Chinese?)
Finding a 4000 year old bowl of noodles in China makes a pretty strong case that the Chinese invented it first.
For a great write up and further reading, check out National Geographic's article.
Lo Mein vs Chow Mein
The word “lo mein” translates to “stirred noodles”, referring to the way it’s made. Even though it’s often confused with “chow mein”, or“stir-fried noodles”, they’re actually very different in how they’re cooked and how they taste.
The main difference is that lo mein is typically thickened with cornstarch, whereas chow mein is not.
Happy Birthday, Dad!
Before we dive into the recipe, I just wanted to take a second to wish my dad a happy, happy birthday.
This recipe / video will always be one of my favorites, because I was able to capture so many sweet and sentimental moments with my family. One for the ages!
If you want in on the wholesome fun, I highly recommend watching our full YouTube video.
Check out a quick story summary of our recipe!