The chow mein sandwich, a specialty of drive-ins and cafes on the south coast of Massachusetts and Rhode Island east of Narragansett Bay, exists because Frederick Wong started the Oriental Chow Mein Company in 1936. Genuine chow mein sandwiches are built with noodles the family makes at the old building in Fall River. These noodles are crunchy, not soft as in chow mein elsewhere; and traditional chow mein sandwiches are meatless: simply noodles topped with sauced sprouts all on a plate along with a hamburger bun. Assuming you do not have access to Oriental Chow Mein Co. noodles, marketed locally with the brand name Hoo-Me, the following recipe includes directions for frying your own.
1 pound dried Chinese egg noodles
Oil for deep frying
1 quart chicken stock
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 large sweet onion, cut in half and sliced (to create strips, not rings)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup molasses
4 hamburger buns
Boil the noodles until al dente. Drain and rinse. Use paper towels to pat them dry and divide them into four equal clumps.
Heat the oil to 350 degrees. Use a slotted spoon to fry each clump of noodles until crisp and brown. Drain each well on paper towels.
Make a paste by mixing together 1 cup of the chicken stock with the cornstarch.
Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a deep cast iron skillet or wok. Add the celery, onion and garlic and cook until they start to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the bean sprouts and cook 1 more minute until they begin to get limp. Stir in the remaining 3 cups of chicken stock, then stir in the cornstarch mix, stirring constantly as the mixture thickens. Add the molasses, stir a few more times and remove the skillet from the stove.
Separate the hamburger buns into top and bottom and place both sides into a deep plate. Top one side with one of the fried noodle bunches. Top the other side with 1/4 of the bean sprout mix. Serve immediately … with utensils!