a photo of chow mein noodles

My husband and I often eat out. When it comes to Chinese food, ordering for just two people can be a bit tricky. I am used to attending large Chinese gatherings where we have anywhere from seven to ten dishes per table. For just the two of us, we tend to aim for one or two dishes only plus a soup. A dish that gives us noodles or rice plus vegetables and meat is ideal. Chow mein hits all the marks for being tasty, and giving us meat, noodles, and enough to eat without ordering more dishes. At the heart of any good chow mein are the chow mein noodles. There is an age-old debate as to what is better: crispy or soft chow mein noodles? First, let’s dive in to the food discussion then swing back to the crispy vs soft debate.

We ended up in the heart of West Vancouver and found mouth-watering chow mein at Ginger and Soy, a humble restaurant on Marine Drive. We chose their seafood hot and sour soup and the Ginger and Soy chow mein on this particular visit. The soup was delicious and plentiful. Then came the chow mein. When the dish was put in front of us, I actually exclaimed out loud with an excited, “Oh my!”. Chow mein is a dish that is present at every Chinese family dinner. The number of restaurants where I tried their chow mein would be well over 40. Ginger and Soy‘s version is one of the best I’ve had. I chose the crispy option and it came out so high! A dish I recommend trying if you are venturing out to West Vancouver.

Ginger and Soy’s Chow Mein, Seafood Hot and Sour Soup

Here is the map of where to find the restaurant:

Crispy or soft?

This experience brought to mind the debate between crispy or soft noodles. There are two options when you order chow mein at any Chinese restaurant: crispy or soft. It’s the same dish, just different cooking methods. My husband likes soft chow mein, I like crispy. Crispy is what you see in the picture: dry and crispy noodles. In the middle of the crispy noodles, the sauce will be dripping through those luscious vegetables and meats and making the noodles underneath soft, and pliable, coated in sauce. The soft and saucy middle is what my husband likes. You can choose to have the entire dish soft and saucy or have the crispy noodles on the outside and the saucy noodles on the inside.

When serving guests

The options bring forth a different way of hosting guests. If you ordered crispy noodles, use utensils to cut into the noodles first similar to serving pie. Dish the noodles out first, and then place meat and vegetables on top. The soft option is easier to serve, just use two big spoons or one big fork and one spoon. This would be similar to serving spaghetti.

In order to satisfy different preferences, always order crispy. The sauce covers the middle part of the noodles leaving the middle noodles soft, while the outer noodles are nice and crispy. It leaves your guests with options to choose from rather than if you only order soft.

Two Serving Options

If everyone likes crispy, or there is no preference, you serve the dish as you would a pie (see option 1 below). Serve any guests who prefer soft noodles last.

When hosting a large dinner with a few guests who want soft noodles only, you can serve your guests based on their preferences using Option 2 below. Serve the guests who like crispy noodles first, from the outer part of the dish, and then serve the guests who prefer soft noodles from the inside of the dish.

Option 2 is a bit tricky because you need to estimate how much meat and vegetables to spread out between guests first. Usually, you serve one vegetable and one piece of meat per guest to ensure there is enough to go around. The noodles that are left in the middle are now soft from the sauce and ready to be plated for the guests who prefer soft noodles. After everyone is served, there is usually still some sauce and vegetables left for guests who want additional sauce.

Often, there are only one or two guests in a larger group who want soft noodles only. I serve based on option 1, and I serve those guests last so they can have the softer noodles from the inside of the dish. If it is just two of us, I use option 2. There is always a bit of sauce left on the serving plate to add on top of crispy noodles too!

What do you prefer – crispy or soft?

Tell me what you prefer – crispy, soft, or a mix of the two by taking the poll below!

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