Chinese egg noodles are wheat noodles made with eggs, which add a rich flavor, color, and texture. Many Chinese noodle dishes call for egg noodles specifically, as is the case with chow mein. The noodles are available both fresh and dried at Asian markets, usually, and they are often available in dried form elsewhere. They can also be made fresh at home, just like Italian style noodles.
As a general rule, Chinese egg noodles are made with wheat, although technically other grains could be used as well. The wheat is mixed with salt, eggs, cornstarch, and often oil as well so that it forms a stiff dough. The dough is rolled out and cut into strips of varying widths, depending on the type of noodle being made. As a general rule, these noodles are quite long, since length symbolizes longevity and good luck.
Whether fresh or dried, Chinese egg noodles are often coiled to save space. Fresh ones are refrigerated, and they must generally be used within several days, or they will go bad. Dried egg noodles have a long shelf life as long as they are kept in airtight containers in cool dry places. Once opened, they should be used relatively quickly, or resealed in another airtight container.
There are a wide range of shapes for these noodles, including rounded spaghetti-like noodles, squared noodles, and slim flat noodles. As a general rule, all are fast cooking, requiring around three minutes for fresh noodles and up to 10 minutes for dried noodles. The noodles are often cooked until they are still slightly chewy, and then drained and dunked in cold water to arrest the cooking process before being tossed so that they will not stick.
There are a number of uses for Chinese egg noodles. They can be used instead of Western noodles in many dishes, they can be fried in stir fries, and they can be used as a base for stir fried food in sauce, as is often done with lo mein. The noodles are also fried in flat cakes as a base for various foods, or for plain eating. The crispy noodles are very popular in many parts of the world, and they are sometimes used broken into small bits, like a condiment. Some cooks like to chill soft ones and toss them with oil and a savory sauce for a cold noodle salad dish.