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 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:
Chop Suey Recipe
You will need:
- 1/2 kilo chicken (any part), deboned and thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups water or chicken broth
- 1 tbsp patis (fish sauce)
- 1 medium-sized sayote (chayote), chopped
- 1 medium-sized carrots, chopped
- 1 cup young corn, chopped
- 2 cups broccoli, chopped
- 2 cups cauliflower, chopped
- 1 cup chicharo (flat beans), chopped
- 1 medium-sized cabbage, chopped
- 1/2 cup tainga ng daga or black fungus mushroom (optional), chopped
- cornstarch solution (1 cup water + 2 tbsp cornstarch + 3 tbsp soy sauce, mixed thoroughly)
- 4 tbsp oyster sauce (optional)
- kinchay (Chinese parsley), chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
How to prepare:
- In a bowl, mix chicken pieces, cornstarch, and soy sauce.
- Heat oil in a large pan or wok. Stir-fry chicken pieces until brown.
- Add onion and garlic. Sauté until onion is translucent.
- Add water or chicken broth. Season with patis. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat.
- Add all the vegetable except cabbage and kinchay. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Add cabbage and black fungus. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add the cornstarch solution, oyster sauce, and kinchay. Season with salt and pepper to your taste. Add more soy sauce if needed. Simmer for a few minutes or until the vegetables are cooked (do not overcook) and the sauce has thickened.
- Serve with rice.