Monday, November 12, 2012

Chow Mein Means Stir-Fried Noodles

This is not chow mein

These days it seems like I only blog when I have something to rant about. If I keep it up, this might just merge with my other blog. But nothing raises my ire about Chinese restaurants as much as serving "chow mein" without noodles.

More... Recovering from a wicked bout of the flu, I was anxiously awaiting my first meal in three days. At some point after the nausea was gone, I was just trying to see how long I could go without eating. Once I finally regained my appetite, I ordered Chinese.

Growing up on the West Coast, ordering "chow mein" meant only the slightest bit of ambiguity. You're either getting the thick, soft noodle, or the crispy, thin noodle. The thin, crispy noodle is also known as Hong Kong style chow mein. Out here on the East Coast, through whatever asinine etymological perversion, apparently chow mein can mean no noodles at all. Instead, what I got was a glob of brown sauce and mixed-in bits and pieces, known in Chinese as 雜碎. Yes, this was chop-suey.

This is not the first time I've seen this monstrosity in Chinese kitchens. And to add insult to injury, I even found this order slip in the take-out bag.

The restaurant had even written on there "large pork fried noodles." Well technically they wrote "large meat fried face" but the Chinese word for face (面) is a homonym for the word noodle (麵) and was probably substituted for kitchen short-hand. Either that, or they realized the sick joke they were playing on the unsuspecting customers.

Having lived in New York for several years now, I've known that East Coast chow mein is actually called "lo mein." I just thought that this restaurant, which billed itself as authentic, wouldn't stand for this sort of linguistic atrocity.