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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Recipe #32: MISUA BOLA-BOLA

Filipinos love soups. We enjoy them as they are, or we eat them with rice to add moist and texture. When I was a kid, I remember eating a bowl of rice overflowing in warm soup of Nilaga or Sinigang — types of pork, beef, or seafood stews. One of my favorite soup dishes is called Misua Bola-bola or Meat ball soup with Misua Noodles, and you can easily prepare this dish at home using today’s recipe.

Misua noodles originated from China which we inherited through its culinary influence in the country. Unlike rice vermicelli (bihon), which is made from rice, misua is made from wheat flour. These are very thin, white noodles that are very delicate, easily break when raw, and quickly absorbs liquid. You can buy them from your nearest sari-sari store (variety store), public market, or supermarket.

Misua Bola-bola

Misua Bola-bola is also known in some parts of the country as Almondigas. Because some recipes of Almondigas use rice vermicelli instead of misua, we will call it Misua Bola-bola to make a distinction. Besides, that how we call it back home in Malabon.

Perfect for rainy days, enjoy a warm bowl of Misua Bola-bola as a main dish, an appetizer, or as an afternoon snack. I still prefer the childish way by mixing it with my rice. It reminds me of the good old days.

I divided the recipe into two parts: the first one is how to prepare the meatballs; the last one is for the soup. Check the recipe below:

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Recipe #25: KABYA (CLAM) SOUP

This is a popular type of clam locally known as kabya. I’m not sure if it’s the same thing as nylon shells, but the appearance seems identical. I love clams because their refreshing and nutritious. They’re known to be good sources of iron and other vitamins and minerals.

Now, when buying clams and mussels, make sure that they are alive. Shells of live clams are closed. If they’re open, they should close once you tap them. If they don’t close, that means they’re dead. Also, avoid clams with cracks on their shells. After cooking, fresh clams and mussels should open. If they don’t, that also means they’re dead. Discard them.

The recipe below is known simply as Kabya or Kabya Soup. Unlike clam chowders, it is simply cooked to create a tasty broth. Definitely one of my favorites.

Kabya Clam Soup

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