Get your chopsticks ready! National Chop Suey Day recognizes this American Chinese culinary cuisine each year on August 29.
Chop suey, which means assorted pieces, is a dish in American Chinese cuisine. The main ingredients include meat (chicken, fish, beef, prawns or pork) and eggs. As the meat cooks over high heat, add vegetables (usually bean sprouts, cabbage, and celery). The dish is bound in a starch-thickened sauce. Typically, rice accompanies the flavorful dish.
According to food historian Alan Davidson, chop suey is “A prime example of culinary mythology.” These food myths happen with popular foods. Illustrated below, several colorful and conflicting stories tell of chop suey’s possible origin.
Chop Suey Stories
Some believe chop suey was invented in America by Chinese Americans. However, anthropologist E.N. Anderson finds another conclusion. According to Anderson, the word tsap seui means miscellaneous leftovers and hails from Taishan, a district of Guangdong Province. Many early Chinese immigrants traveled from their home in Taishan to the United States.
Another account claims Chinese American cooks who were working on the transcontinental railroad invented chop suey in the 19th century.
A prime example of culinary mythology. ~ Alan Davidson on the origin of chop suey.
One tale stemming from the Quing Dynasty connects to premier Li Hongzhang’s visit in 1896. According to the story, his chef wanted to create a meal suitable for both the Chinese and American palates. Another version of the story tells that Li wandered to a local Chinese restaurant after the hotel kitchen closed. Even though the chef was embarrassed because he had nothing prepared to offer, he made a dish for Li. Comprised of leftover scraps, the chef created the new “chop suey” dish.
Still another myth tells of an 1860s Chinese restaurant cook in San Francisco. After hours, the chef was forced to serve something to the drunken miners. He had nothing fresh to offer. However, to avoid a beating, he threw leftovers in a wok, providing a makeshift meal to the miners. The miners loved the dish, asking him for the name of the dish. To which the chef replied, “Chopped Sui.”
Traveling to the United States in 1903, Liang Oichao, a Guangdong native, wrote that there existed a food item called chop suey. While regularly served by Chinese restaurateurs, the local Chinese people did not eat this dish.
HOW TO OBSERVE #NationalChopSueyDay
Enjoy some chop suey and use #NationalChopSueyDay to post on social media.
NATIONAL CHOP SUEY DAY HISTORY
Just like the source of the recipe, we did not unearth the creator of National Chop Suey Day.