Where did chow mein originate from?

Chow mein literally means "fried noodles." Food historians agree on two points:

  1. Noodles have been known to Chinese cooks since ancient times.
  2. No one knows exactly who made the first chow mein and when.

Historians also agree chow mein most likely migrated to America with Chinese immigrants in the mid-19th century. Yes, this food (and many others) has endured several changes over the years...from indigenious cooks to Americanized restaurant selections to canned versions and frozen entrees.

"Chow mein is related to and takes its name from "chao mian," a Chinese dish consisting of previously boiled noodles stirfried with meat and vegetables. There is, however, an important difference. In chow mein the noodles are deep fried in bundles, which are crisp and brittle when they emerge; whereas in the Chinese dish the noodles are soft."

---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 183)