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The Difference between Light and Dark Soy Sauce and a Soy Sauce Chow Mein Recipe

Posted April 24, 2018 by Stephanie

Easy Soy Sauce Chow Mein Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Give me a plate of noodles and I’m happy. I’m not sure what it is, but there are definitely noodle people, rice people, and bread people out there. I’m am a noodle person all the way. They just fill me up with so much joy. Literally, I’m filled with noodles right now and there’s just something about the fact that noodles did it to me that makes me feel safe.

If I ever had to do FMK with noodles, rice, and bread, it’d go like this: definitely marrying noodles, because noodles. I’d have to kill off bread even though I do love bread too. So that leaves me having carnal affairs with rice. Hmm…thing is I love all carbs so I would really actually be very sad if any carb went away. I’m talking about a deep and unsettling depression might come over me. I actually tried a carb-free diet once, years ago, and let me tell you, it was not pretty.

Easy Soy Sauce Chow Mein Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Anyway, on to this soy sauce chow mein recipe. It’s your standard si yau wong chow mein, which translates to soy sauce king fried noodles because these soy sauce noodles are the king of all the fried noodles of the land. It’s a favorite for breakfast or lunch and you’ll often see it at congee noodle houses or even at dim sum. Classically, it’s just soy sauce, noodles, chives, and bean sprouts, but I added some beef in for some protein.

Because it is such a simple dish, there are various ways of making it, which usually comes down to which types of soy sauce you use and in what ratio.

Easy Soy Sauce Chow Mein Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

The Soy Sauces

The two soy sauces used in soy sauce chow mein are dark and light. You can find both at your friendly Asian neighborhood grocery store and I’ve even started to see them pop up at mainstream grocery stores as well. First off, if you’re making this dish, or any other Chinese dish, you’ll want to be using Chinese soy sauce. You can definitely use whatever soy sauce you might have at home (even those little packets of Kikkoman that you get with sushi), but if you want an authentic tasting dish, source some Chinese soy sauce, it won’t disappoint you!

Light soy sauce is light in color, almost a see through reddish brown, and thin in viscosity. It’s salty and delightful and essential to Chinese cooking. It’s used for seasoning as well as for dipping.

Dark soy sauce is thicker, darker, and slightly less salty then regular/light soy sauce. It’s almost black and has the look of soy sauce, but reduced. It is used for flavor, but mainly for adding that classic dark caramel color to dishes. The color comes from a longer fermentation of the soy bean and there’s a very mild minute sweetness to it as well.

If you’re only going to buy one bottle, buy light soy sauce because it’s the more versatile of the two – light soy sauce is used in stir-fry, braising, soups, stews, and marinades. If you don’t have dark soy, you won’t have the same coloring in your dishes, but generally, you’ll have a good approximation of flavor using light soy.

We usually use Lee Kum Kee brand for both types of soy but growing up my mom also used Pearl River Bridge so we use both brands regularly around here.

If you get your hands on some, I hope you’ll make this king soy sauce chow mein. It’s pure noodle-y comfort food.

Easy Soy Sauce Chow Mein Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Soy Sauce Chow Mein with Beef Recipe
serves 2-4


  • 1/2 lb beef (sirloin, tri-tip, or ribeye), thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon shaoxing wine


  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons neutral oil
  • 8 ounces fresh chow mein noodles
  • 3.5 ounces bean sprouts (about 1.5 cups)
  • 3 green onions, cut into 2 inch lengths and julienned

Mix the beef together with the marinade ingredients and set aside.In a bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the water, soy sauces, sesame oil, sugar, and salt. Set aside. Soak the noodles in a bowl of hot tap water for a minute, rinse and drain well.

Heat up a touch of oil in a large non-stick pan or wok over medium high heat. Add the beef and cook, stirring, until browned and cooked through. Remove from the pan. Add the remaining oil and the well-drained noodles. Cook, tossing occasionally, until slightly crispy and warmed through, about 2-3 minutes. Add the sauce and toss, using chopsticks or tongs to make sure all the noodles are coated. Add the beef back in and the sprouts and green onions. Turn the heat to high for the last minute or so to give everything some nice char. Remove from the wok and enjoy immediately!
toss and fry

Notes: You’ll find fresh chow mein noodles in the refrigerated noodle section of the Asian grocery store. They usually come in a plastic bag and are sometimes called Hong Kong style egg noodles, chow mein noodles, or thin egg noodles.


  1. Lau ech ngon says:

    I am a noodle person too. I come from Vietnam where rice is everywhere but i hate rice. Just noodle. Great to see this useful post!

    1. Kenny says:

      Can’t say no to a nice big bowl of Pho Xe Lua rice noodles!

  2. Kristin says:

    not sure if i should be ashamed to admit this, but i love the chow mein you get at panda express. this recipe looks awesome and probably better than my panda express guilty pleasure :)

    1. Kenny says:

      Nothing wrong with having Panda Express’ fake Chinese food for once in a while. Sometimes you just need to go ‘off the rails’ for some variety. But yeah I agree, noodles are awesome – that goes from beef chow mein (or chow fun) to linguine alla vongole.

  3. Chermaine says:

    5 stars
    Made this one twice. Love it!! Can I use chicken instead?

    1. Stephanie says:

      absolutely! you can use any protein you like :)

  4. Bob Prout says:

    I assume you add the beef back at some point even though you didn’t say

  5. Mindy Bence says:

    I have health issues so I have dietary restrictions (no wheat but I can have limited soy at this point rather than zero). I went to the Asian grocery store and bought rice sticks noodles, longkou vermicelli (made from peas) and sweet potato noodles to make Japchae. I haven’t had noodles in so long! I primarily want to understand what subs I can use to get the staining of dark sou sauce. I bought Lee Kum Kee brand gluten free soy sauce, high grade Shaoxing, Lee Kum Kee gluten free vegan oyster flavored sauce and i already have Bragg aminos, tamari and coconut aminos. I have only used the coconut aminos for so long, so I started using some Bragg aminos (made from soy) and I tolerated that ok. Can you tell me which of these new sauces I can use in what proportion to get similar taste but hopefully the staining color? Thanks!!!

    1. Stephanie says:

      i would definitely try the gluten free soy sauce for the color and flavor. it won’t be as dark, but it will be similar!

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