Finding Problems With Your Restaurant

3 Reasons Why Your Chicken Chow Mein Is Not Restaurant Quality

by Peppi Hautala

Cooked-to-perfection noodles, savory chunks of chicken, and crisp and flavorful veggies-- it is no wonder why chicken chow mein is one of the most popular dishes ordered at Chinese restaurants.If you are trying to replicate this dish at home, you may think that because you have gathered the finest ingredients, obtained the perfect recipe, and have a professional-worthy wok you are good to go. However, don't be at all surprised if the chicken chow mein you end up with after all your efforts is nothing like what you have experienced at your favorite restaurant. There are a few reasons why you may have an extremely difficult time preparing chicken chow mein at home that even closely resembles that you are so familiar with. 

You have an absence of wok hei. 

You can go out and buy a wok just about anywhere, but a new wok has no wok hei, which translates to "breath of the wok." Wok hei is the radiation of flavors that comes from a well-used wok. Even though the wok is cleaned after each use in a restaurant, some of the flavors and seasonings remain in the pan itself and these flavors do transfer to the food during cooking. There is a good chance that the chicken chow mein you love so much is absorbing flavors in the wok from thousands of prepared dishes before it.

You don't have a burner capable of high enough temperatures. 

Wok cooking should be done on at least a 10,000 BTU burner that can quickly reach 400 degrees. High-temperature cooking is the only way to achieve the appropriate cooking reaction of the ingredients. Chicken chow mein is usually flash cooked, which basically means it is zapped with high temperatures quickly to produce a fresh and even taste where no one ingredient is cooked any longer than the other. Foods cooked in this fashion taste fresher and more of the flavors are preserved. 

You have yet to master the art of "tumbling."

Tumbling is a term that is used to refer to what you do with the ingredients in your wok while it is cooking. You grab the wok by the handle and carefully tumble the ingredients around with quick shimmies of the pan and a twitch of the wrist. Even though this sounds simple, tumbling in the same professional manner as a genuine Chinese food chef can take some time and experience to master. Tumbling is important because it helps to ensure that all ingredients in the wok are cooking evenly and are never allowed to settle into the bottom of the pan where the heat is higher and flavors will be differentiated. 

If you'd rather not figure out what how to cook a restaurant-style meal, consider going out instead. Restaurants like the Flora-Bama Ole River Bar will be happy to serve you instead.