Meatless Monday: Vegetable Chow Mein

On Meatless Monday, make a Chinese take-out favorite, Vegetable Chow Mein in 20 minutes.
By: Michelle Buffardi
The only "rule" for Meatless Monday is that you go meatless that day. Technically, you don't have to cook; you could feast on meat-free restaurant fare the whole day if you wanted to. But though it's tempting in a pinch, why would you order take-out when you can make the same food at home, for less money and in less time? Take Chinese food, for example. It's never done in the 10 minutes promised. And I'm always skeptical of the mysterious broth and sauce that gets ladled into my stir-fry -- is it really meatless?

In the time it takes you to pick up the phone and order, and then fetch your meal, you can whip up your own authentic Chinese dinner at home. Ching-He Huang's Chow Mein recipe is easy to make (her shows are called Chinese Made Easy and Easy Chinese: San Francisco, after all), it uses ingredients you can find in any grocery store and you have total control over the ingredients so you can be sure it's meatless. And if you really don't want to miss out on the take-out experience, pack up your leftovers in a Chinese take-out container and enjoy them for lunch the next day.

Recipe courtesy of Ching-He Huang

Makes: 4 servings

8 ounces dried Chinese egg noodles
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups mixed fresh mushrooms (shiitake, king trumpet, cremini, button, etc.), sliced

Pinch Chinese five-spice powder
One 6-ounce bag baby spinach
1 to 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
Pinch salt
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds
1/2 tablespoon toasted black sesame seeds

Fill a wok or medium saucepan with water, bring to a boil and cook the egg noodles until al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain, then coat with the toasted sesame oil to prevent the noodles from sticking together and set aside.

Heat a wok over high heat and add the vegetable oil. When the wok is smoking, add the garlic and stir-fry until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and cook until starting to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Season the mushrooms with the Chinese five-spice powder. Stir-fry for 1 minute more, then add the spinach and stir-fry for another minute until wilted (you can add a few tablespoons of water to help create some steam to cook the spinach if necessary). Toss in the cooked egg noodles, season with the light soy sauce and salt. Garnish with sliced scallions, toasted black and white sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Why should you go meatless on Mondays, and how can you do it? Skipping meat once a week has been proven to have a major (and positive) impact on the health of the environment and ourselves, but watch this animated video from the Humane Society for more on that.

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