Charlie Chan’s Noodle Stir Fry

  • Prep Time
    20 to 30 minutes
  • Cook Time
    15 minutes
  • Serving
  • View

Who doesn’t love Charlie Chan?  According to Wikipedia:

Charlie Chan is a fictional Honolulu police detective created by author Earl Derr Biggers for a series of mystery novels. Biggers loosely based Chan on Hawaiian detective Chang Apana. The benevolent and heroic Chan was conceived as an alternative to Yellow Peril stereotypes and villains like Fu Manchu. Many stories feature Chan traveling the world beyond Hawaii as he investigates mysteries and solves crimes.

Chan first appeared in Biggers’ novels and then was featured in a number of media. Over four dozen films featuring Charlie Chan were made, beginning in 1926. The character, featured only as a supporting character, was first portrayed by East Asian actors, and the films met with little success. In 1931, for the first film centering on Chan, Charlie Chan Carries On, the Fox Film Corporation cast Swedish actor Warner Oland; the film became popular, and Fox went on to produce 15 more Chan films with Oland in the title role. After Oland’s death, American actor Sidney Toler was cast as Chan; Toler made 22 Chan films, first for Fox and then for Monogram Studios. After Toler’s death, six films were made, starring Roland Winters.

Readers and moviegoers of America greeted Chan warmly. Chan was seen as an attractive character, portrayed as intelligent, heroic, benevolent, and honorable; this contrasted the common depiction of Asians as evil or conniving which dominated Hollywood and national media in the early 20th century. However, in later decades critics increasingly took a more ambivalent view of the character. Despite his good qualities, Chan was also perceived as reinforcing condescending Asian stereotypes such as an alleged incapacity to speak idiomatic English and a tradition-bound and subservient nature. No Charlie Chan film has been produced since 1981.

Yes, it is stunning to watch these old movies and to see the stereotypical characterization of the Chinese detective and his sidekick Birmingham.  I wondered if it was rude to name this dish after the fictional character Chan.  But the dish itself is hardly authentic.  This is a knock-off amalgamation of several Chinese-American recipes I have found in various cookbooks.  It’s easy and soooo delicious, but it’s hardly real Cantonese cooking.  I think when we watch those old movies and recognize the prejudice inherent in the portrayal of certain characters, we have to reject the old thinking and embrace the evolution of our insight.  In other words, it is not a crime to enjoy an old Chan movie while at the same time realizing how unacceptable those dated attitudes really are.

Besides, I loved Chan’s elegant white suits, his unflappable sense of humor, and his good-natured air of superiority.  And though several different actors played Chan, I like Sidney Toler’s portrayal the best.


This recipe is kind of a non-recipe in the sense that you can substitute all sorts of vegetables or even proteins.  The only trick is to fry the noodles to a crispy golden nest in a little sesame oil, then quickly stir fry the vegetables, add the sauce, thicken it and pour it all over the noodles.  Taste-testing the sause is key.  The sauce is on this site with Wong’s Noodles also.  Add the sesame oil judiciously as it can overpower other flavors.  I had a hard time getting a good picture of this dish because the minute I poured the sauce over the noodles, I started digging in.  Obviously, I’ll never make it as a food stylist because I have no interest in taking pictures of cold food.  My dishes don’t pose.


Noodles and Stir Fry

Wong's Sauce


    You can prep the noodles, chop the vegetables and get your mise en place in order -- then cook when you are ready to eat because the dish goes fast once you begin to stir fry.

    Step 1

    Prep the noodles: Bring a big pot of water to the boil, dump the noodles in and cook for 1 or 2 minutes. Drain. With a fork or your fingers, separate the noodles as much as you can just to keep them from sticking together in a big clump. You can rinse them with cold water and that will also help.

    Step 2

    Put the dried mushrooms in warm water, and soak for 30 minutes. Then pat dry and remove the stems and slice the mushrooms.

    Step 3

    Prep the vegetables. Rinse them and cut off tough stalks and discolored leaves. Cut the florets of broccoli and the bok choy into BIG bite sized pieces. Slice the scallions on the diagonal.

    Step 4

    Mince the garlic and ginger.

    Step 5

    When you are ready to fry, pour some vegetable oil into the wok and bring it up to almost smoking. Drizzle a little sesame oil into the wok for flavor, then add the noodles. Fry on both sides until golden. Remove to a serving platter.

    Step 6

    Add the vegetables and mushrooms and start to move around and stir fry in the wok.

    Step 7

    Add the garlic and ginger. Don't let them burn.

    Step 8

    When the vegetables are almost done but still a bit crunchy, add the sauce. Let the sauce boil up.

    Step 9

    Add the cornstarch slurry and thicken the sauce.

    Step 10

    When the sauce is thick, pour it and the vegetables over the noodles and serve.

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