Recipe #47: CHOP SUEY

Is chop suey Chinese? American? Nobody seems to know the answer.

Based on the name alone, chop suey (literally means assorted pieces) is most likely of Chinese origin or created by Chinese-American immigrants. Bits and pieces of leftover meat and vegetables are mixed together and stir-fried to avoid wastage, accidentally creating an iconic and versatile Asian dish.

Not to cause confusion, the American chop suey is not the same as the Asian chop suey — not even closely similar. The former is an American pasta dish which is influenced by Italian-American flavor. The name, however, was borrowed from China because it is sometimes prepared using a hodgepodge of meat and vegetables.

Asian countries, such as Thailand and India, have their own versions of chop suey. Some are sweet, some are spicy. In Indonesia, it’s called can cai which is quite similar to the Filipino version. The Filipino chop suey itself has so many ways to prepare. My lola’s version, called vianda (probably has a Spanish influence), contains chorizo de bilbao or Chinese chorizo which adds a lovely aromatic sweetness into the sauce.

Chop Suey Recipe

Chop Suey can be served as a main or as a side to your meat dishes. In Filipino fiestas and other special occasions, chop suey is served to add variety in a usually meat-centric buffet table. Enjoy it with steamed rice, or stir-fry it with your favorite noodles, such as canton or bihon, to make a beautifully delicious chow mein or pancit.

In this recipe, I’m using chicken meat, but you can also use thinly sliced pork, beef, or seafood. Shrimp is highly preferred. Some recipes may also call for tripes or chicken liver. Hard-boiled quail eggs are kids’ favorite. Go vegan by removing the meat or by replacing it with tofu or mushroom, minus the oyster sauce.

Aside from the ones listed below, there are other kinds of vegetables that you may or may not add, such as bell pepper, bean sprouts, patola (luffa), upo (bottle gourd), and green beans. The choice of vegetables is all up to you.

Ready? Warm up your wok and grab the recipe below:

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Perhaps, one of my biggest regrets while living in Thailand was not being able to blog about my life there. But then again, I also wanted to detach myself from the usual things that I did before I left Manila. I wanted to experience living in another country with a certain level of immersion into a culture that is similar yet so different from my own, away from the familiar crowd and scenes. Besides, that’s one of the many reasons I decided to take refuge in the the land of smiles anyway.

So, yeah, why regret.

Now that I’m back, and while I can still remember snippets of my life in Thailand, I’ll probably share one or two Thai recipes that I really enjoyed (and definitely going to miss) while I was there. Let’s start with one of my favorite street foods — Thai Chicken Satay.

Thai Satay 1

Here’s the thing — satay or sate (pronounced as sa-té) is not originally from Thailand. Its country of origin is in fact Indonesia, historically akin to the Indian kebabs. But because Thailand’s cuisine is more popular than its neighbors, satay became more associated with Thailand.

A photo posted by GJ Coleco (@gjcoleco) on

Thai Pork Satay sold as a street food in Thailand

Aside from Thailand and Indonesia, satay is also a well-known street food in Malaysia and many parts of Southeast Asia. Yes, it can also be found in the Philippines, in the south where it is known as satti.

Just like in any culinary adaptations, ingredients and preparations vary from one region to another. In Thailand, chicken and pork satay are common where it’s served with peanut sauce and cucumber relish. But in Islamic countries, chicken and beef are more preferred, although pork may also be found in non-halal food establishments. 

Try the recipe below and let me know what you think:

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Recipe #45: SINIGANG NA ISDA SA MISO (Fish in Tamarind & Miso Soup)

Sinigang sa Miso is to the Philippines what Seafood Tom Yum is to Thailand. A type of tamarind-based soup (although sometimes guavas or kamias are used), Sinigang is arguably second to the Adobo in the popularity hierarchy of Filipino cuisine, and probably as ubiquitous as the Chicken Tinola.

However, the countries that have more similar dishes to Sinigang are perhaps from our next-door neighbors; Malaysia’s Singgang and Indonesia’s Sayur Asem also use tamarind as a souring agent unlike Thailand’s Tom Yum which uses lime.

Sinigang na Isda sa Miso 1-2

It’s apparent that sampaloc or tamarind is a very popular ingredient in many tropical countries as a souring agent in a number of savory dishes and as candied snacks. For example, one of the key ingredients of the popular Thai stir-fried noodle dish Pad Thai is tamarind paste. In the Philippines, aside from Sinigang and tamarind candies, we also have a dish called Sinampalukang Manok which uses tamarind leaves.

Today’s Sinigang na Isda sa Miso recipe is a popular variation of this national dish which you will surely enjoy especially if you love fish. Miso, a fermented soybean paste typically associated with Japanese cuisine, is an important element of this recipe. The sourness of tamarind adds a tangy counterpoint to miso‘s umami flavor which creates an outrageously delicious soup base.

Please enjoy the recipe below:

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