If you are looking for a delicious and flavorful noodle dish, there are so many wonderful options. You may be wondering which is the better option between Lo Mein vs Pad Thai. Well, it depends! Let’s delve deeper into the main differences.
What is Lo Mein?
Lo Mein is one of the most popular noodle dishes found at Chinese restaurants. It’s a stir fry that typically includes some kind of sliced meat or seafood, wheat noodles, sliced vegetables and a savory and sweet sauce.
Lo Mein is a popular Chinese noodle dish that has been consumed for over 2000 years. It originates from the Han Dynasty and has since been a large part of Chinese culture.
The name originates from the Cantanese “lōu mihn” which translates to “stirred noodles”. It’s important to note that the dishes Lo Mein and Chow Mein are different, especially because they are often confused for one another.
Lo Mein can have differing ingredients based on the individual preparing the dish. But for the most part, Lo Mein consists of Lo Mein noodles (or egg noodles), a variety of vegetables (typically onions, bell pepper, carrot) and some kind of sliced meat or seafood.
The Lo Mein sauce consists of cornstarch (used to thicken the sauce), soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, sugar and sesame oil. Some recipes may ask for oyster sauce and/or hoisin sauce and rice vinegar (used instead of Chinese cooking wine).
Where to find
Most Chinese restaurants have a Lo Mein dish on the menu. If you don’t have a Chinese restaurant near you, you can always try making the dish at home.
Most ingredients for Lo Mein can be found at your local grocery store, but some items such as Chinese cooking wine and sesame oil may require a trip to your local Asian grocery store.
What is Pad Thai?
Pad Thai is another popular choice when it comes to stir fried noodle dishes. The dish is a street food in Thailand with a savory sauce and a spicy flavor. It’s made using rice noodles, some form of meat, typically shrimp, egg, bean sprouts and a spicy sauce.
Pad Thai was introduced into Thai cuisine in the early 1900s despite being seen as a traditional dish. The goal of creating the dish was to create a unifying national dish and drive tourism to the nation, which is why it’s the most popular dish in Thai restaurants in the United States.
The ingredients in Pad Thai vary depending on the chef creating the dish. The main ingredients include Pad Thai noodles (long thin rice noodles), some form of meat, eggs and bean sprouts.
The sauce includes a combination of tamarind paste, brown sugar or palm sugar, fish sauce and oyster sauce. Vegetables like chili peppers, bean sprouts and green onions are added. The dish is typically topped with peanuts and served with lime wedges or lime juice.
Where to find
You can find Pad Thai at pretty much every Thai restaurant. If you don’t have any Thai restaurants near you, you can always make the dish at home.
Most of the ingredients can be found at a local grocery store, but for ingredients like tamarind paste, palm sugar, bean sprouts and chili peppers, try a local Asian grocery store.
Main Differences: Lo Mein vs Pad Thai
There are several big differences between Lo Mein and Pad Thai despite them both being popular dishes and coming from Asian cuisines. The key differences are the flavor profiles and kind of noodles used.
Pad Thai uses rice noodles while Lo Mein uses wheat based egg noodles. Rice noodles are slightly translucent with a very mild flavor while egg noodles are savory with a brownish-yellow hue.
Along with this Pad Thai relies on Thai flavors such as chili peppers, fish sauce and tamarind paste. This gives Pad Thai a very spicy and umami flavor that is strong and distinct.
Lo Mein, on the other hand, is soy based, so it has that umami or savory flavor, but without the spice and fishy flavor. It’s very flavorful, but undoubtedly less strong compared to Pad Thai.
Nutrition Breakdown: Lo Mein
The nutrition of Lo Mein largely depends on the recipe, so there will be differences depending on who makes the dish. The breakdown listed below might not be an accurate representation of the Lo Mein you normally consume.
The nutrition information in this section was collected from cronometer.com using the entry “Chicken Lo Mein” in the NCC database.
Two cups of Chicken Lo Mein contains about 522 calories. This is a pretty moderate amount of calories for a small to medium sized lunch or dinner (for those consuming about 2000 calories daily).
Two cups of Chicken Lo Mein contains about 77 grams of carbohydrate. The carbohydrates in this dish mostly come from the noodles and the sweet sauce. This dish also contains about 4 grams of fiber, mostly coming from the vegetables in the dish.
Two cups of Chicken Lo Mein contains about 16 grams of protein. This may seem like a small amount but it’s important to consider most Chinese dishes are very grain and vegetable based with small amounts of meat to supplement.
Two cups of Chicken Lo Mein contains about 16 grams of fat with 2.8 grams coming from saturated fat. This is a low saturated fat dish, with most of its fat coming from unsaturated sources which are considered “healthy” fats.
Two cups of Chicken Lo Mein is a good source of most B vitamins, vitamin K, copper, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc.
Overall, it’s a fairly nutrient dense dish. If you make this dish at home, add more colorful vegetables to increase the nutrient density of this dish.
Nutrition Breakdown: Pad Thai
The nutrition of Pad Thai largely depends on the recipe being used. That being said, the nutrition breakdown listed below might not be an accurate representation of the Pad Thai you normally consume.
The nutrition information in this section was collected from cronometer.com using the entry “Pad Thai, with Meat” in the NCC database.
Two cups of Pad Thai contains about 659 calories. This makes it a higher calorie dish compared to Lo Mein. It’s fairly dense in calories for just being a two cup serving.
Two cups of Pad Thai contains about 69 grams of carbohydrates. Most of the carbohydrates are coming from the noodles and the sauce in this dish. This dish contains about 3.7 grams of fiber, similar to the amount in the Chicken Lo Mein.
Two cups of Pad Thai contains about 41 grams of protein, making this a very protein rich dish. If you order vegetarian Pad Thai with no added meat, this amount will be much lower.
Two cups of Pad Thai contains about 24 grams of fat and 4.5 grams of saturated fat. While this still isn’t a large amount of saturated fat, it’s much higher than the amount in Chicken Lo Mein.
Two cups of Pad Thai are a good source of all B vitamins including folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc.
It’s a better source of many nutrients compared to Chicken Lo Mein, but it’s also higher in calories. When calories are equated, the micronutrient density is much more similar.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which is the healthier option?
This is a hard question to answer considering a “healthy” meal can look different depending on your personal goals. Pad Thai is higher in calories and protein, so could be a better option if you are trying to put on muscle.
Lo Mein, on the other hand, is lower in calories and saturated fat, which may be a better choice if you have high cholesterol or are trying to lose weight. That being said, it’s also slightly less nutrient dense.
And even despite all of this, it matters what the rest of your diet looks like. Lo Mein may be less nutrient dense but that shouldn’t matter if the rest of your diet fills in the gaps.
In the end, choose the option you enjoy and practice moderation. Variety is also key to a healthy dish, so if you enjoy both dishes, switch off which one you get for take out.
Which is higher in calories?
Lo Mein has fewer calories than Pad Thai when compared based on a two cup serving. This doesn’t mean that Pad Thai is worse for you, just that it provides more energy per cup serving.
Pad Thai is much higher in protein compared to Lo Mein (over double the amount) and higher in fat, contributing to the extra calories in the dish.
Which is better for weight loss?
It depends. Pad Thai is higher in calories per cup compared to Chicken Lo Mein, but it’s also higher in protein, which could mean you get fuller off a smaller proportion.
In the end, you will lose weight when you consume less calories than you expend throughout the day. While Pad Thai is higher in calories, you may end up consuming less because of the high protein content.
It really depends on you personally. Neither Lo Mein or Pad Thai will cause weight loss or cause weight gain. It depends on how much you consume overall.
Does Thai food speed up your metabolism?
Because Thai food is notoriously spicy, some believe that it can boost your metabolism and make you burn more calories. Is there any truth to this statement?
The substance Capsaicin, which comes from hot peppers, can temporarily increase metabolism and enhance fat oxidation at high doses. But, this effect is rather small and just one Thai dish won’t provide a high dose.
Overall, while the hot peppers in Thai food may slightly increase metabolism, the effect is very small and won’t cause any noticeable weight loss.
Are rice noodles healthy?
It depends on what you mean by healthy. Rice noodles aren’t particularly nutrient dense or high in fiber. But, they are high in carbohydrates and a good source of quick energy.
In the end, rice noodles aren’t harmful, but they aren’t the most nutritious either. That doesn’t mean you should avoid them or choose another kind of noodle whenever you have the chance.
Instead, enjoy rice noodles in moderation just like you would any other refined grain like white rice, white bread or white pasta. Aim for half of your grains to come from whole grain sources.
Other popular noodle dishes
If you are not a fan of Lo Mein or Pad Thai, luckily there are a few other noodle dishes that you can try that are equally as delicious. These dishes come from all over Asia.
Chinese noodles dishes
China has some of the best stir fried noodle dishes that are popular all around the world. Here are a few of these dishes.
- Dandan Noodles (Dan Dan Mian)
- Beef Noodle Soup (Niu Rou Mian)
- Jiaozi Noodles
- BiangBiang Noodles
Thai noodle dishes
Thailand also is known for their delicious noodle dishes, mostly derived from popular street foods. They typically use rice noodles as a base.
- Pad See Ew
- Tom Yum Goong
- Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)
- Khao Soi
- Rad Na
Japanese noodle dishes
The Japanese are known for their delicious noodle soups with savory broths. While ramen is their most popular noodle dish, a few others come to mind.
- Kake Udon
- Zaru Soba
Korean noodle dishes
Korea is also known for delicious noodle dishes. Many of these dishes are filled with vegetables and meat.
- Bibim Guksu
Vietnamese noodle dishes
Vietnamese cuisine is also known for its noodle dishes and they are slowly gaining more and more popularity in the United States.
- Bun Thit Nuong
- Mi Quang
- Cao Lau
- Banh Canh
There are plenty of other delicious noodle dishes coming from other countries in Asia such as pancit canton from the Philippines, num banh chok from Cambodia and char kway teow from Malaysia.