Chow Fun vs Chow Mein: 3 Differences and Health Comparison

Stir fry noodles with vegetables and beef in black bowl. Slate background. Close up.

Chow Fun vs Chow Mein: 3 Differences and Health Comparison

When it comes to Asian dishes, two popular Chinese cuisine meals may come to mind: chow fun and chow mein. However, what exactly is the difference between chow fun and chow mein? In a nutshell, the differences lie in the two's flavor, ingredients, and appearance. 

Although both of these dishes are delicious in their own right, their flavors and appearance set them apart.

Both chow fun and chow mein are noodle-based stir-fry. What each stir fry consists of will vary. This article will explore the differences between chow fun and chow mein noodles, the dishes, and the health comparison.

Chow Fun vs. Chow Mein: Differences and Health Comparison

When it comes to these two specific dishes, it can be easy to mix them both up. However, there are key differences that make up each one of these dishes. Let's take a look at what sets each apart in depth. 

Flavor and Texture of Chow Fun and Chow Mein

The flavor and texture are the first difference between chow fun and chow mein. Chow fun noodles are rice flour. Therefore, they have a rice taste. Chow fun noodles also tend to be greasier and slicker than chow mein. Additionally, chow fun noodles are distinctly flat and wide.

A popular meat that makes up a chow fun stir fry is beef slices. However, the real importance is simply that the stir-fry has some type of protein with the noodles. These can also include chicken or pork. Another popular addition to a chow fun recipe is vegetables. In fact, many people enjoy a simple vegetarian chow fun recipe.

Chow mein noodles, on the other hand, can closely compare to spaghetti noodles. They have a yolky flavor and are drier than chow-fun noodles. This is because chow mein noodles are flour and egg. They do not have as much slip as chow-fun noodles, making using a fork or chopsticks easier while eating them. 

The chow mein dish's taste depends on the flavoring; however, most dishes are sweet and savory. 

On the other hand, chow fun is also sweet but has a more subtle flavor. 

Ingredients Differences Between Chow Fun and Chow Mein

The next difference between chow fun and chow mein noodles is their ingredients. 

Chow mein noodles are made with wheat flour, egg, and water. Chow fun, on the other hand, is rice flour. This difference may be subtle, but it is still very important. Chow mein noodles are popular worldwide, and most are familiar with this type of Chinese noodle. They are comparable to spaghetti noodles with a similar flavor and texture. 

Appearance Differences Between Chow Fun and Chow Mein

Chow fun and chow mein noodles are also different in appearance. 

Chow fun noodles are thick. They are also wide and flat. Chow mein noodles, however, are round and thin. They even have a yellow appearance.

When it comes to the dishes, chow fun gives off more of a greasier look, while chow mein is drier.  

Although chow mein looks like spaghetti noodles, they are different. First, chow mein noodles have eggs in them. This alone sets them apart from spaghetti noodles. Chow mein also takes on a different shape, remaining the same while cooking.

Chinese food, beef and rice noodles stir fried Chow Fun
Chow fun noodles are wide and flat. They also have more of a white appearance in comparison to chow mien. Many chow fun recipes will have stir-fried vegetables and some protein, like beef.


Chow Fun vs. Chow Mein: Nutritional Value

Chow fun is made of rice noodles and chow mein flour noodles. Additionally, each chow fun and chow mein recipe will vary. Therefore, we will look at the differences between these two noodles for the nutritional profile.

First, rice noodles are made with water, rice flour, cornstarch, or tapioca. Rice noodles are low in fat and fiber and have moderate protein levels. In one cup of rice noodles, you can expect the following nutritional base:

Sodium33.4 mg
Carbs42.2 grams
Fiber1.8 grams
Protein3.2 grams

Chow Mein is made with flour and egg and is considered egg noodles. In comparison, egg noodles in chow mein have around the following nutritional value:

Sodium197.6 mg
Carbs25.9 grams
Fiber1.8 grams
Protein3.8 grams

As you can see, chow mein will be higher in calories and sodium, depending on the specific recipe. However, chow mein and chow fun are similar in fiber and protein values.

What is Chow Fun?

Now that we have discussed the differences between the two, let's talk about precisely what each is. 

Chow fun is in many classic Chinese recipes and is typically stir-fried with various meat and vegetables

The noodles are flimsy and fragile. When not cooked correctly, chow fun can break very easily. The noodles are broad, flat, and a bit greasy. 

When it comes to the typical chow fun dish, most of them will contain chow fun noodles, bean sprouts, soy sauce, and scallions. Sometimes the dishes will also have a type of meat like steak.

Popular Chow Fun Dishes

There are many different chow fun dishes to be enjoyed. If you want a delicious chow fun meal for one of your upcoming family dinners, try one of the following!

Homemade Beef Chow Fun Asian Noodles with Scallions
Although chow fun and chow mien may sometimes be confused, a few differences set them apart. For starters, the flavor of both vary. Chow fun uses rice noodles, so the presence of a rice flavor is prevalent in this dish.

©Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock.com

What is Chow Mein? 

Chow mein is one of the more popular Chinese dishes that many people are familiar with. The noodles are egg noodles and have flour and egg. 

These noodles more closely resemble spaghetti and are not as fragile as chow fun. They keep their shape well and are typically stir-fried until crispy. Chow mein noodles can cook in a flat skillet as well. 

When it comes to the typical chow mein dishes, they usually contain noodles, eggs, sauce, vegetables, and some meat or seafood. 

Chow mein may often be considered an American take on Chinese cuisine; however, that couldn't be further from the truth. Chow mein is 100 percent a Chinese dish.

Popular Chow Mein Dishes

Chow mein is one of the more popular Chinese dishes loved around the world. Try one of these delicious meals for dinner this week!

Authentic chow mein noodle fried with shrimp, vegetables and sesame seeds close-up on a plate on the table. Horizontal top view from above
Chow mien is a popular Chinese dish that many people are familiar with. It has long egg noodles that do not easily break.

©AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock.com

Can You Substitute Chow Fun and Chow Mein? 

Like with any type of noodles, it is possible to substitute chow fun and chow mein. It is important to remember that when you substitute one for the other, there will be differences in flavor and appearance. 

For example, if you use chow fun noodles, remember that the noodles are more fragile and can break easily if overcooked. Additionally, chow fun has a greasier appearance than chow mein. Regardless, both of these noodles are delicious in their own right!

In Conclusion

For those who enjoy Asian dishes, it doesn't get any more authentic than chow mein and chow fun. While both are delicious in their own right, there are still several differences between them. Let's take a look at how these two popular noodles differ:

  • Flavor and texture are one of the most distinct differences. Chow fun noodles are made with rice flour, while Chow Mein noodles are made with wheat flour, egg, and water.
  • In shape, chow fun noodles are wider and flatter. On the other hand, chow Mein noodles are round and thin, similar to spaghetti, and have a yellow appearance.
  • Regarding nutritional value, because rice noodles are lower in fat, chow fun noodles are typically healthier than chow mein noodles.

Chow mein and chow fun are popular and delicious Chinese dishes enjoyed worldwide. While they may at first glance appear similar, they have significant differences that set them apart, from ingredients, texture, flavor, and appearance. Whether you prefer the subtle and sweet chow fun or the sweet and savory chow mein, it all comes down to personal preference. Both dishes are delicious, and you cannot go wrong with either one. 

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