31. Chow Mein

Lately it seems like I’ve been eating beef, beef, beef, and more beef. And I guess that in October I have–this month I had one of the best meals of my life at The Prime Rib Baltimore–where I ate just that: prime rib. Lots and lots of prime rib. If you are ever in Baltimore, I highly recommend that you make a visit. Go and order a Cold Piney and some of the potato skins. Tell them that Dinner is Served! 1972 sent ya!

But anyhooooo: when I made #31 me and The Cleve were at a point much like we were back in August when I modified #22 Beef Manicotti into a Mushroom Manicotti. I just couldn’t take any more beef, I tell ya! So although #31 called for beef and pork, I went with a mixture of chicken and shrimp. Variety is the spice of life, after all! Well, and I happened to have both chicken and shrimp in my freezer.

I’m gonna give you my chow mein timeline:

5:40: I adjusted the amount of oil because 1: I was using a non-stick wok. 2: that much oil seemed unnecessary. So into 1 tbsp of oil I sauteed 2 thinly sliced onions with 2 cloves of minced garlic (my addition. Why garlic would not be present in a recipe including ginger is beyond me. Garlic + ginger + scallion = the basis of all AMAZING Chinese cuisine). During this time I also used my microwave to defrost my chicken.

5:57: When the onions were sufficiently cooked I added a cubed chicken breast (mine weighted in at about 9 oz).

6:05: The chicken was browned so I added the celery, soy sauce, sugar, salt, ginger (who the hell would substitute molasses for ginger? It boggles the mind), and broth. Instead of using canned chicken broth I used a few of my homemade stock ice cubes, of which I am running very low. (Note to self: make more broth).

 This is when the canned Chinese vegetables were added. I was also supposed to put in a can of bean sprouts, but that seemed superfluous since the fancy mixed Chinese vegetables already included bean sprouts.

I shelled the defrosted shrimp. Since I deviated from the recipe, and shrimp takes very little to cook, I decided to wait to put them into the wok until I put in the canned mushrooms. So the shrimp went back into the fridge. I then moved onto the salad.

#31 calls for a “Green Salad with Orange Chunks.” You know what that means:


Who’s excited that mandarin oranges are back? Gosh, I know that I am. For the “Green Salad with Orange Chunks” I made what my family calls Aunt Mary Jo Salad. I think the actual name of this may be California orange something or other but we called it Aunt Mary Jo Salad because she was the one who gave my mum this recipe back in the 80s (so this could be considered a retro recipe!).

The Aunt Mary Jo Salad is super-easy: combine a head of red leaf lettuce (yes, it has to be red leaf because of taste and texture), a small can of drained, mandarin oranges, 3 or 4 chopped green onions, and 1/3 cup slivered almonds. Top with a Sweet & Sour salad dressing. This recipe is a perennial favorite.  If you eat a lot of salads it’s a nice change of pace. The sweetness of the oranges is tempered by the scallions and the almonds give the salad a nice crunch.

6:40: Into the wok went the straw mushrooms (yeah, I didn’t have to resort to canned button mushrooms. The Safeway had straw mushrooms in the ethic food aisle.). The shrimp went in right after the mushrooms.

6:50: Plating commenced.

A note: I nixed the sesame rolls and the rice from this dinner. I must ask how many carbs does Dinner is Served! think one meal needs? I believe that the Chow Mein crispies were sufficient! And they were delicious. Although I didn’t warm them in a slow oven. That read to me as overkill.

OK, I did put dessert in the photo even though I didn’t serve it at the time and it went back into the freezer. I had to–it’s in the photo. So I will address that now. I don’t like chocolate ice cream so I bought a carton of Neapolitan. And for the Chinese almond cookies, I bought Chinese almond cookies. Yes, you read that correctly. The Safeway doesn’t carry endive or veal chops but they sell boxes of Chinese almond cookies. Right next to the straw mushrooms. Logic does not live at the Charles Village Safeway.

7:00: I sat my ass down in front of the television.

So here is #31. DINNER IS SERVED!

Honestly, I was prepared to hate this dish. No offense to the fine people at La Choy, but in my experience the dishes made from your products stink. I have both fond and gross memories of your chow mein and mini egg rolls from my childhood. Both the vegetables and the egg rolls always ended up soggy and not so good. Yet this chicken & shrimp chow mein was surprisingly good! Was it haute-cuisine good? Of course not. But it was no worse than (and totally photographed as well as!) something you’d get at a strip mall Chinese joint. I really was surprised at how well this turned out. And on top of it, the leftovers heated up quite nicely for lunch the next day.

I do think that the success of #31 was partially due to my chicken-shrimp substitution. I think that the pork and beef would’ve made this oily and heavy. And this was not.

#31 was a winner. And if the La Choy canned Chinese veg mix ever goes on sale, I’d make this one again. Even if it doesn’t go on sale–all I need is a can of Chinese vegetables, a bag of crispy noodles, soy sauce, and whatever protein I have in the freezer and I’ve got myself an easy, relatively cheap, 1 pot meal.

Oh, FYI, I donated my unused can of bean sprouts to my workplace’s canned food drive. Along with a small can of green peas and a package of maxi pads.

I’m saving the world.

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9 Responses to 31. Chow Mein

  1. Surly says:

    I’m hungover. This is not helping.

  2. veg-o-matic says:

    Kind of surprised–shocked, really–that this turned out as well as it did. Nothing spells disaster more than Asian cuisine as interpreted by mid-century home economists. So Yay for your win!

  3. I love the flexibility and ease of stir fry stuff. I’ve never actually tried chow mein though… maybe I should. (Thanks, 1972!)

  4. RetroRuth says:

    This is wild! Can’t believe we posted almost the same post a few days apart! And yes, stuff like this does taste strangely good. 🙂

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