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Malaysian-Style Fried Noodles with Sweet Potato

4 to 6 Servings

45 minutes

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In Penang, Malaysia, at Cawangan Boundary food stall, we tasted the noodle stir-fry called mee goreng. To make the dish, proprietors Sarina Binti Hussin and Abdul Hamid Bin Mohamad Husin wok-cook noodles, seasoning them with two different sauces that involve lentils, sweet potatoes, peanuts, tamarind, alliums and multiple types of chilies. The flavor was richly complex, with charred, salty-sweet notes and noodles with an almost meaty character. This is our much-simplified version of it. Mee goreng typically is made with precooked yellow-hued wheat noodles that resemble spaghetti with a bouncy, resilient texture. These noodles can be difficult to source, so here we approximate them by boiling dried lo mein in water alkalized with baking soda, a process often called “ramenizing.” The higher pH of the cooking liquid turns the lo mein slightly golden in color while also making them chewier and springier.

4 to 6



Don’t skip the step of rinsing the noodles after draining them. This cools them so they don’t overcook as they wait to be tossed into the wok or skillet, while also washing away excess starch and residual baking soda. Also, when stir-frying, don’t be afraid to get deep charring on the vegetables and noodles. Charring helps create wok hei, or the toasty-smoky flavor that results from stir-frying over ultra-high heat in a well-seasoned wok.

45 minutes


  • 1

    tablespoon baking soda

  • 8

    ounces dried lo mein (see headnote)


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Matt O.
November 2, 2023
Had everything except Napa cabbage and peppers - had trouble stir frying noodles for some reason (followed directions) but overall delighted-
Rob N.
October 29, 2023
Proceed with caution. Followed the steps to a “T.” Even made a special trip to well-stocked Asian market for dried Lo Mein (forsaking the fresh frozen noodles we had on hand). Once boiled, noodles were EXACTLY as described in the recipe. Noodles turned into a mucky mess and stuck to the bottom of our well seasoned Wok—impossible to scrape free with multiple implements. Definitely will not try/waste the ingredients again. P.S. We are charter subscribers to both Cooks Illustrated and Milk Street and usually over the moon about content and results (with the exception of Milk Street’s endless, annoying pop-up promotions that have no relationship to our long connection and interest—we recognize it all is a part of the business model but come on guys.)