My good friend Ed is from Taunton, Massachusetts, and for Christmas this year he and his friend Bill mailed me a box of Hoo-Mee Chow Mein mix.
You may think this was an odd Christmas gift, but it was related to a discussion we had a few weeks earlier about one of New England's unusual culinary delights: the chow mein sandwich.
I'm from the Merrimack Valley, so I had never heard of chow mein sandwiches until I met Ed. It's a regional specialty that is found only in Southeastern Massachusetts (particularly in Fall River, Taunton and New Bedford) and in parts of Rhode Island (Pawtucket and Woonsocket). You can also order it at Nathan's Famous restaurant in Coney Island, but it arrived there from New England.
A chow mein sandwich is composed of three parts: goopy chow mein, crispy chow mein noodles, and a hamburger bun. Ed was quite explicit about the hamburger bun - nothing else is authentic!
According to Wikipedia, the chow mein sandwich has been delighting New England gourmands since the 1930s. That seems possible, since and chow mein has been eaten in the U.S. since the early 20th century - it's mentioned in Sinclair Lewis' 1920 novel Main Street. Hoo-Mee has been in production
Usually when I write about New England cuisine I focus on old recipes from the colonial or Puritan eras, like Indian pudding, election cake, or cider pie. But folk culture is always changing and incorporating new things. The Puritans didn't care (or even know) about things like Bigfoot, phantom hitchhikers, or chow mein sandwiches, but they're part of our regional cultural heritage today. So I say, "Celebrate New England and have a chow mein sandwich!"
|Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.|
If you don't know how to make one, celebrity chef and Fall River native Emeril Lagasse has a recipe on his website. He instructs the cook to deep fry their own noodles, but for an authentic experience you should just buy a box of pre-fried crispy noodles, like those provided in the Hoo-Mee mix.