Not Exactly Chow Mein, But Exactly What You Want for Dinner

A recipe title appended with “ish” could be interpreted as a signal of inauthenticity and lowered standards.

Or, it could be a promise of everything you hope for in a weeknight dinner—minimal fussing resulting in tasty-enough food.

Cal Peternell’s vegetable chow mein-ish from Twelve Recipes is mostly the latter, though it’s much more than a tasty-enough weeknight meal—it is a tangle of saucy noodles and vegetables, and it’s fast becoming a family favorite.

Shop the Story

The first time, I made it exactly as prescribed, with broccoli, carrots, and onions, what Peternell refers to as “the commonest vegetables.” My children, all of us, gobbled it up. I’ve since made it with various combinations of vegetables, but this latest with shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, and edamame has been my favorite yet.

Photo by Alexandra Stafford

What I love about the recipe is this: It works as well with spaghetti as with soba noodles, with asparagus as with broccoli, with or without protein. The dressing is made with 4 ingredients, all of which you likely have on hand: soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and water. Because the vegetables are sliced thinly, they cook in about the same amount of time as the noodles.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“As usual Alexandra, you have given me yet another great dinner recommendation! Thank you so much! I'm going to practice my Chinese julienne for the carrots a la Francis Lam. You rock and I love the recipes you share. ”
— Fresh T.

Moreover, the adaptations are endless: Peternell suggests using a number of seasonal vegetables—napa or savoy cabbage, snap or snow peas, peppers, spinach, zucchini—as well as adding sesame seeds, tofu, sliced flat omelets, or leftover chopped-up meats.

Photo by Alexandra Stafford

He also suggests stirring a spoonful of hoisin or oyster sauce or a splash of Shaoxing wine into the sauce mixture, but I’ve yet to try it—too worried these additions might bump the “ish” off my new favorite dinner.

Order now

A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

Order now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Klaus
  • Kristen Miglore
    Kristen Miglore
  • Fresh Tomatoes
    Fresh Tomatoes
  • Alexandra Stafford
    Alexandra Stafford
  • Heather Zeleny
    Heather Zeleny
I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.


Klaus May 8, 2016
The recipe looks promising however, once I got to the amount of Oil used I said I don't think so. Way to much fat....
Alexandra S. May 8, 2016
Try it with less! See what happens. Keep in mind this is filled with vegetables and noodles and feeds about 4, which comes out to about 1 tablespoon of oil per serving. You could start with 2 tablespoons of oil, and then, as the vegetables cook, add more if necessary.
Heather Z. May 8, 2016
Fat is necessary for a balanced diet.
Kristen M. May 4, 2016
I love your last line so much, and you've totally sold me on this ish.
Alexandra S. May 4, 2016
Thank you, Kristen!
Heather Z. May 8, 2016
Yes, I love to make "ish" dishes and meals.
Fresh T. May 3, 2016
As usual Alexandra, you have given me yet another great dinner recommendation! Thank you so much! I'm going to practice my Chinese julienne for the carrots a la Francis Lam. You rock and I love the recipes you share.
Sarah J. May 3, 2016
Alexandra S. May 3, 2016
Thank you, Sarah :)
Alexandra S. May 3, 2016
Dana, I do not know this Francis Lam method for julienning carrots ... can you please describe/elaborate?! And thank you...you are too kind!
Fresh T. May 4, 2016
I'm such a goofball, Ali. I'm not going to put carrots in this, I just got all excited because usually there are so many vegetables that some are julienned. I'll probably stick to your combo. It looks soooo good! Here's Francis Lam doing the Chinese juilenne. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AMCkwJmuak.
Fresh T. May 4, 2016
I take it back, I am adding carrots!
Alexandra S. May 4, 2016
Take it back take it back! Dana, you are funny. Thanks for sending that video!! I love. And I love the one afterwards, too, and now all I want to eat is ginger scallion sauce and noodles.