Shrimp Chow Fun (虾炒乐趣)

Learn the Chef's secrets to creating this classic Cantonese dish, and the history behind Chow Fun

Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
Yields
4 servings

A Recipe by Daddy Lau

My dad's been cooking Chinese food for over 50 years - as a kid fending for himself in Guangzhou, as the head chef of his own restaurant, and as a loving father in our home.

Hopefully, by learning this recipe, you'll get to experience some of the delicious joy we felt growing up eating his food!

- Randy

Chow Fun is one of the most well-known Chinese dishes around the world.

It's a staple menu item for most Chinese restaurants outside of China, and my dad has literally made this dish over 100000 times over the course of his 50 years as a chef.

Sometimes when I order Chow Fun at restaurants, I feel a tinge of regret for eating what can be a pretty greasy (but delicious) dish of noodles.

My dad's at-home version of Chow Fun is a healthier alternative to Chinese take-out, that's just as tasty!

The Rise of Chow Fun

Chow Fun is also known as Chow Ho Fun (cháau hòh fán, 也称为). Literally, it means stir-fried river noodles, named after the river town of Shahe (Sā hòh síh, 沙河市) in Guangzhou where its distinctive style of flat rice noodles were first created.

Throughout 1940-1970, as more Chinese people started coming to America, the great majority of immigrants were from Guangdong. Naturally, the richness of Cantonese food, tradition, and culture traveled with them.

Even as diverse and geographically expansive as China is, up until the 60's and 70's, Chinese food in America was predominantly Cantonese cuisine. That's why today, Cantonese dishes like Chow Fun and Chow Mein are still among the most popular dishes across Chinese restaurants in America.

1960s - Chinese American restaurant menu
1960s - Chinese American restaurant menu

Eventually, as Chinese immigrants from other regions made their way to the US, Chinese food in America became more diverse.

Fun fact: According to the Chinese American Restaurant Association, there are over 40000 Chinese restaurants in America. This is more than the amount of locations for McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, and KFC combined.

Ingredients

Weight: US
oz
g
Volume: US
cup
mL
Servings
4
  • 1 lb fresh rice noodle
  • 5 oz shrimp (

    the amount is up to you, but 41/50 is the preferred size

    )
  • 6 oz bean sprouts
  • 3 oz onion
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 0.50 oz green onion
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon
  • sesame oil (

    to taste

    )
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Fresh Rice Noodles

Fresh flat-rice noodles (hòh fán, f河粉) are the cornerstone of this dish.

Generally speaking, you can usually only find these at an Asian supermarket, made fresh each day. These typically aren't refrigerated, because refrigerated noodles are much more brittle and less tender.

If you're planning on making this dish, it's ideal to buy the noodles fresh and cook Chow Fun the same day.

If you're not able to cook Chow Fun the same day, check out the video above.

My parents go into great depth about selecting noodles, properly storing them overnight, and prepping them for cooking after refrigeration.

Finding Asian Ingredients

Some of these ingredients are hard to find in a typical grocery store.

If you don't live near an Asian market, most of what my dad uses can be found on Amazon:

These links are affiliate links, which means that if you use our links to purchase these ingredients, Amazon pays my family a small amount for the sale - at no extra cost to you. If you use these links, we really appreciate the support!

Light vs Dark

Most of us know and recognize Chow Fun noodles by their rich, mouthwatering dark brown color. This color is typically achieved through dark soy sauce.

When cooking Shrimp Chow Fun specifically, most Cantonese chefs will opt to use light soy sauce. The lighter color of the noodles work in harmony with highlighting the beauty of the shrimp's orange color.

For Beef Chow Fun, you would use dark soy sauce.

Switching Up Vegetables

Stick to vegetables with low water content. Vegetables like bok choy, choy sum, spinach are poor choices for Chow Fun, because they release too much water while cooking.

Achieving Wok Hei

Wok Hei (鑊氣) is an important principle in the art of Chinese and Cantonese cooking.

It has many translations and meanings depending on who you ask, but my favorite is "The Breath of the Wok", where the wok imbues its energy into the stir fry to create an unforgettable meal.

The Cantonese word “hei 氣” is more commonly known by its Mandarin pronunciation, “chi" or "qi", the vital life force that runs through our body.

The science behind Wok Hei centers around the reactions that occur between sugars, oils, extreme heat, and rapid evaporation, which creates a fleeting, prized smoky essence that only lasts for a few minutes after cooking. 

Although not impossible, it can be harder to achieve Wok Hei at home, since our stoves generally don't pack as much power as a commercial kitchen or the roaring flames that are a sight to see in Asian street food markets.

Achieving Wok Hei is an art and skillset that takes ample dedication to master. A great place to start is by reading Grace Young's award-winning book "The Breath of a Wok", which chronicles the rich legacy of the Chinese wok as told by artisans, chefs, and experts alike.

(We're not affiliated with Grace Young or "Breath of a Wok", just thought that it'd be a great resource for you to have!)

For this recipe, my dad bought unpeeled shrimp (5 oz), so the first step is to peel them. Already-peeled shrimp work just fine.

You don't want shrimp that are too big or too small - 41/50 is perfect. Any bigger, and they'll be harder to cook to perfection.

For 4 servings, my dad opted to use about 15 to 16 shrimp. Feel free to use as much or as little shrimp as you want though!

To help the shrimp stay tender and juicy, add cornstarch (1 tsp) and the shrimp to a bowl, and mix together with your hands.

(Usually for Chinese recipes, we add cornstarch AND water before mixing. Our shrimps are already wet, so we don't need to here.)

Chop the onions (3 oz) into thin slices.

Don't go overboard on the onions. If you do, the onions will release too much water, resulting in a sad, wet, and soggy Chow Fun.

No one likes sad, wet, soggy Chow Fun :(

Cut the green onion (0.50 oz) into 1.5 inch pieces.

Your fresh rice noodles (1 lb) likely came in a tight, compressed package.

For maximum chewy goodness, you'll need to spread out the noodles on a cutting board. Massage and separate the noodles for about 60 - 90 seconds.

The goal is to avoid thick clumps of noodles.

As we mentioned earlier, if you're not able to cook the fresh rice noodles the very same day, my dad describes two ways to optimally store them overnight (spread the noodles out before refrigerating, and using a microwave.)

We need to get our wok as hot as possible before starting to cook. Set the stove to its highest setting, add vegetable oil (1 tbsp), and wait for about 3 to 5 minutes. The wok should begin to smoke, and you should be able to feel the heat by holding your palm close to the wok.

In traditional Chinese restaurants, the woks are extremely hot, which allows the masterful chefs to achieve Wok Hei easily. Watching them cook Chow Fun is almost like a performance of dancing flames and tidal waves of noodles being tossed around.

Once the wok is hot, add the shrimp and cook for about 60 to 90 seconds in total. Flip the shrimp halfway through.

You should hear a beautiful sizzling sound as the shrimp start to turn a crisp red / orange color.

Once the shrimp is orange, you're done. Remove the shrimp from the wok and place into a bowl.

Add more oil to the wok, as well as the chopped onions. Cook the onions for about 20-30 seconds, until their fragrant aromas are released.

Next, add in your fresh rice noodles. From this point forward, it should be about 9 to 10 minutes until this Chow Fun is completely ready to eat.

You don't need to stir the noodles too rapidly. Using chopsticks, gently toss the noodles around the wok slowly, and occasionally flip the noodles over. The noodles should start to turn slightly golden yellow.

In traditional Chinese restaurants, the chefs constantly toss and flip the noodles with the entire wok. It works in this environment because the heat is much higher and the woks much thinner - the whole dish takes only 3 to 4 minutes to prepare.

After about 4 minutes of cooking the noodles, gradually add in the remaining ingredients: light soy sauce (2 tbsp), shrimp, green onion, chicken bouillon (1 tsp), and bean sprouts. Continue gently stirring and flipping the noodles.

IMPORTANT: Make sure to wait to add the bean sprouts (6 oz) until the last 2 to 3 minutes of cook time, so they stay optimally crunchy and crispy.

You're done! Call your loved ones over to eat as you plate the noodles into your favorite dish.

Summary

Shrimp Chow Fun (虾炒乐趣)
Learn the Chef's secrets to creating this classic Cantonese dish, and the history behind Chow Fun
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Total Time: 25 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
  • 1 lb fresh rice noodle
  • 5 oz shrimp (

    the amount is up to you, but 41/50 is the preferred size

    )
  • 6 oz bean sprouts
  • 3 oz onion
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 0.50 oz green onion
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon
  • sesame oil (

    to taste

    )
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
Step 1 - Prepare shrimp↑ Jump to details

For this recipe, my dad bought unpeeled shrimp (5 oz), so the first step is to peel them. Already-peeled shrimp work just fine.

You don't want shrimp that are too big or too small - 41/50 is perfect. Any bigger, and they'll be harder to cook to perfection.

For 4 servings, my dad opted to use about 15 to 16 shrimp. Feel free to use as much or as little shrimp as you want though!

To help the shrimp stay tender and juicy, add cornstarch (1 tsp) and the shrimp to a bowl, and mix together with your hands.

(Usually for Chinese recipes, we add cornstarch AND water before mixing. Our shrimps are already wet, so we don't need to here.)

Step 2 - Cut onions and green onions↑ Jump to details

Chop the onions (3 oz) into thin slices. Cut the green onion (0.50 oz) into 1.5 inch pieces.

Don't go overboard on the onions. If you do, the onions will release too much water, resulting in a sad, wet, and soggy Chow Fun.

Step 3 - Spread and massage rice noodles↑ Jump to details

Your fresh rice noodles (1 lb) likely came in a tight, compressed package. Spread out the noodles on a cutting board. Massage and separate the noodles for about 60 - 90 seconds. The goal is to avoid thick clumps of noodles.

Step 4 - Heat the wok properly↑ Jump to details

We need to get our wok as hot as possible before starting to cook. Set the stove to its highest setting, add vegetable oil (1 tbsp), and wait for about 3 to 5 minutes. The wok should begin to smoke, and you should be able to feel the heat by holding your palm close to the wok.

Step 5 - Cook shrimp, remove when done↑ Jump to details

Once the wok is hot, add the shrimp and cook for about 60 to 90 seconds in total. Flip the shrimp halfway through. Once the shrimp is orange, you're done.

Remove the shrimp from the wok and place into a bowl.

Step 6 - Cook onions, noodles↑ Jump to details

Add more oil to the wok, as well as the chopped onions. Cook the onions for about 20-30 seconds, until their fragrant aromas are released.

Next, add in your fresh rice noodles. From this point forward, it should be about 9 to 10 minutes until this Chow Fun is completely ready to eat.

You don't need to stir the noodles too rapidly. Using chopsticks, gently toss the noodles around the wok slowly, and occasionally flip the noodles over. The noodles should start to turn slightly golden yellow.

Step 7 - Add remaining ingredients↑ Jump to details

After about 4 minutes of cooking the noodles, gradually add in the remaining ingredients: light soy sauce (2 tbsp), shrimp, green onion, chicken bouillon (1 tsp), and bean sprouts. Continue gently stirring and flipping the noodles.

IMPORTANT: Make sure to wait to add the bean sprouts (6 oz) until the last 2 to 3 minutes of cook time, so they stay optimally crunchy and crispy.

Step 8 - Plate↑ Jump to details

You're done! Call your loved ones over to eat as you plate the noodles into your favorite dish.

Step 9 - Take pictures
Whip out your camera (1). Begin taking photos (1,000,000). Pick your favorites!
Step 10 - Share and tag us on Instagram @madewithlau #madewithlau!
Did you have fun making this recipe? We'd love to see & hear about it. (Especially my dad. He would be THRILLED!)

Enjoy!

This was one of the most popular dishes at my parents' old restaurant!

Now, hopefully, you can create your own memories with this dish with your loved ones.

Also, I cordially invite you to eat with us and learn more about the dish, Chinese culture, and hang out with our adorable son.

Cheers, and thanks for cooking with us!

Feel free to comment below if you have any questions about the recipe.

Watch on YouTube

About Made With Lau

We started Made With Lau to honor and share the legacy of our wonderful parents, Jenny and Chung Sun Lau.

Our hope is that these posts give you (and our future generations) a glimpse into how great they are!