Boy I sure made a mess of what I was trying to say when using the word "first."
It would have been less ambiguous to have said, noodles aren't "chow mein" until they're fried. Chow mein translates as "fried noodles," except noodles are actually mien and not mein. In every dialect with which I have any familiarty it's pronounced me-yen.
Setting aside language and picking up cooking again... If the noodles are dry, they must be boiled until cooked. If they're fresh, sometimes you can get away without pre-cooking them in water -- but usually not. After boiling, they're drained, then "chowed." Chowing means (pretty much) "stir fried" in a wok. They are cooked, in not too much oil, to a soft, oily unctuosness -- with perhaps the odd crispy bit -- rather than not deep-fried to crunchy.
You can do crunchy chow mein (chow mien, if you prefer), but it's usually done with very thin noodles -- and they're usually cooked as a sort of crisp, pancake mass. Those sorts of noodles are usually topped, rather than having the good stuff cooked along with them like the other chow mein/mien.