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This is a two part question, both relating to Chow Mein:

When ordering Vegetable Chow Mein from various Chinese restaurants in New York and New Jersey, I find that the dish is prepared with two different sauces depending on the restaurant. One sauce seems like its a typical Chinese "brown sauce," but the other is pretty much uncolored, is starchy, and not oily at all. I'll call this second sauce "Sauce X."

What is the correct name for "Sauce X," and how can I specify it when ordering Chow Mein at a Chinese restaurant?

How can I cook this sauce for use in homemade chow mein?

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The x sauce you refer to is just plain corn starch added to stock for thickening it does contain salt ,pepper, ajinomoto, you may have come across this more in indian chinese restaurants in New Jersey. Just enriched stock .chicken, veg or shrimp whatever reason the chow mein.

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Authentic Chow mein is usually prepared with a variety of sauces. These sauces could be prepared fresh by the restaurant or they might be using the bottled versions of these sauces prepared by various manufacturers. So as such its difficult to decode your sauce X. But depending on the options we have from this must-have Chinese sauce list, we can interpret whats your sauce!

  • Soy Sauce : Made by pressing fermented soy beans soaked in brine. Usually dark in color and could have variations like with pepper or other condiments.
  • Vinegar: Plain Acetic Acid and water. It is transparent usually. Has variations - Chilli Vinegar, Viniagrette etc. This gives tang to the noodles.
  • Chilli Sauce: As the name says. Could be Red to Green in color.
  • Chilli-Garlic Sauce: As the name suggests.
  • Schezwan Sauce: Consists of spices and condiments and chilli garlic paste basically.

May be this list could help you in figuring out your X.

All the best and Happy New Year! :)

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