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Sep 24, 2008 06:31 PM

Chop Suey

Hello fellow chowhounders.

I'm hoping that you all can help me. I'm writing a paper and am in search of old chop suey recipes. My preference is to find chop suey recipes from old cookbooks and/or magazine articles dating to late 19th century or early 20th century. I'd even be happy with recipes from the 1930s to the 1950s (Old Joy of Cooking or Fannie Farmer). Unfortunately, my cookbook collection is not that extensive, nor does it include older cookbooks earlier than the 1980s.

I would be most appreciative if any of you with older cookbooks could rummage around for recipes, and possibly post them along with the reference where you copied the recipe out of.

Thank you in advance


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    1. I remember seeing a recipe for Cowboy Chop Suey in a small spiral bound recipe book... I can track it down probably...are you interested in these off-shoot "regional" recipes?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Sarah

        Sarah, I would absolutely love to see the recipe, providing that it's not too much trouble to track down. I don't want you tearing down your house just to find this thing. But if it happens to be on a bookshelf within easy access and won't inconvenience you too much, i'd be most grateful. Thank you in advance.

        Todao - thank you for the link. However my problem rests with the fact that I do not have access to many of the cookbooks mentioned. My local and university libraries do not carry these and I probably won't be visiting the Chinese cookbook library at Stonybrook anytime soon as I live in another country. But thank you for the link anyways

      2. Hi Daeira:

        I've collected a lot of cookbooks over the years and came across these chop suey recipes, four in Good Houskeeping 1949, Better Homes & Garden - Ground Meat - 1973 and Farm Journal's Country Cookbook - 1959. I've uploaded these recipes into PDF Files. I hope it works. I've never done it before.

        I hope this would help in your research. Good Luck!!

        5 Replies
        1. re: rinkatink888

          Hi rinkatink. Thank you so much for doing that. I really appreciate it. Unfortunately I can't seem to find the uploaded pdf. Do I need to click a link somewhere?

          1. re: daeira

            I was afraid that might had happen. Unfortunately I'm at work and can't reload until this evening. I'll try again. One of the files may have pushed the 2mb limit. If that's the case, I'll send you back two separate replies and keep the files under 2mb. If that won't work, I'll figure another way.

            1. re: rinkatink888

              No rush rinkatink. I don't want to inconvenience you so whenever you have time. If it's easier, I'd be happy to give you my email address so that uploading won't be too much of a hassle. Let me know which way you prefer, and again thank you

              1. re: daeira

                Hey Daeira:

                Let's try this again with one upload and see if it works.

                1. re: rinkatink888

                  rinkatink, I seem to not be able to see the upload again. I'm not sure whether I'm doing something wrong or perhaps I'm not looking in the right place?

        2. Here's one I found for you:

          The Chinese Recipe for Chop Suey

          1 lb fresh lean meat, veal, or pork, cut into small pieces
          1 can LaChoy bean sprouts
          2 C. sliced onion
          4 C. fine cut celery
          2 C. soup stock or juice from can of bean sprouts
          4 Tbsp LaChoy soy sauce
          1 Tbsp LaChoy brown sauce
          2 Tbsp cooking oil or lard
          2 Tbsp flour

          Fry the meat in a deep kettle in the lard or oil, until well done. Add onions and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the celery, soy sauce, stock, and brown sauce. Cover and cook over a brisk fire until the vegetables are done (about 10 minutes). Add LaChoy sprouts. Stir and heat for 2 minutes. Thicken at edges with a thin paste of flour and water. Stir thoroughly and remove from fire at once. Serve hot with steamed rice.

          7 Replies
          1. re: FoodChic

            I know this thread isn't about whether or not chop suey is good or authentic or whatnot. But I just have to say that, as a daughter of a wonderful Chinese cook, this recipe is horrifying and amusing all at the same time. It's almost as if someone set out to do everything completely opposite of how a Chinese stir fry should be put together. Just the thought of canned bean sprouts is rather revolting (I love the reference to use the "juice" from the can). And meat in stir fry should never be cooked until well done (especially given that the recipe calls for 15 more minutes of cooking!). Vegetables covered and cooked for 10 minutes? And what is "brown sauce"?!

            Anyway, just a bit of amused kvetchng from me. I do understand that these recipes are decades old. I just hope that no one still makes them!

            daeira, good luck with your paper! I hope that somewhere in there you will discuss how these recipes were a sad "interpretation" of Chinese cooking. :)

            1. re: TorontoJo

              Exactly, it isn't authentic, as it comes from a time when there was no other way to obtain these ingredients. If you follow the link I provided it is a recipe from the 1930's. It was a time when can goods were a novelty..the new thing, the thing to do, and helped make cooking easier.

              In most regions of America in the 1920's & 1930's obtaining Asian ingredients just wasn't an option, and canned products were the only option. There wasn't any concern with authenticity.

              I can tell you growing up in the 70's in Montana, a box Chun King Egg Foo Young was always available in my grandparents kitchen cupboard.

              1. re: TorontoJo

                I have The Settlement Cookbook.. the one published in 1965. And it has you cook the dish for at least 30 minutes!

                I felt the same as you, reading it, but things like this are part of the reason I collect old cookbooks. So interesting to see how much tastes have changed.

                And also ingredient availability, as FoodChic points out.

                1. re: TorontoJo

                  All the recipes posted are great. You really see the diversity, not only in product availability but the progression of Chinese food through the decades. You're literally reading social worlds through recipes.

                  I definitely will be addressing the authenticity/inauthenticity debate in on my later chapters.

                2. re: FoodChic

                  That's pretty much how my mom made "Chinese" back in 1960/s. She usually used hamburger for the meat and added canned water chestnuts, canned bamboo shoots and sometimes green pepper and canned pineapple. Then some La Choy or Chung King crispy fried noodles would be sprinkled on top.

                  I remember Chung King and La Choy used to sell kits and all you had to do was add the meat. Do they still sell those?

                  As bland as it sounds it was good in a comfort food sort of way.

                  1. re: 2chez mike

                    Well, sort of. La choy purchased Chung King, and they discontinued many of the prepackaged items that Chung King used to have, as well as my forementioned Egg Foo Young. ..which you just added egg to, the veggies were in a can, and the seasoning packet, as well as the sauce packet that we just added water and heat.

                    If memory serves there is still an chow mein mix.

                  2. re: FoodChic

                    I suspect the LaChoy fake soy sauce is an essential component to that good old time taste. Well, that and celery. Also, I never had it with anything but pork. My family would thicken it with cornstarch, though, and not flour. Ours was a simmered dish with some added water to braise the meat. We didn't have the can of bean sprouts, but sometimes we'd have chow mein crispy noodles on top of it. It was served on Uncle Ben's converted white rice, of course.

                    Chop suey is a fond food memory for me! I loved it as a child.

                  3. Here's an interesting one from a soda jerk website from the 20's & 30's:

                    Title: Chop Suey Sundae
                    Keywords: Oldies, Ice Cream, Sundaes

                    Once the basic sundaes are mastered, the soda jerk should try his
                    or her hand at more inventive fare, such as this relic sugguested
                    by an old recipe from The National Soda Fountain Guide.

                    1/4 cup Sugar
                    1/4 cup Water
                    1/4 cup Raisins
                    1/4 cup Dates
                    2 scoops Vanilla Ice Cream
                    1/4 cup Flaked Coconut
                    1/4 cup Chow Mein Noodles

                    Boil the water and sugar together for 5 minutes and then add the
                    raisins and dates. Pour over the ice cream and top with the noodles.


                    3 Replies
                    1. re: FoodChic

                      FoodChic, thanks so much for the recipes. I'm really intrigued by the chop suey sundae. I've never heard of that before. Just picturing chow mein noodles with ice cream sounds a bit odd though

                      1. re: daeira

                        You're welcome, daeira.

                        My curiostiy got the best of me, so i wanted to find a picture. I didn't have much luck, but I did run across this - which provides some useful research avenues.


                      2. re: FoodChic

                        As i'm searching through the old newspaper archives, I encountered a chop suey sundae recipe as well from 1911. It was chop suey ice cream pudding:

                        "Here's something to send a thrill of delight through every diner: -
                        Our chef carefully chops walnuts, pineapples, cherries, pistachios and macaroons - makes them into a rich nut and fruit salad - and then adds this salad to a special French Ice Cream.
                        If you want a really enticing dessert, have us send Chop Suey Pudding for Sunday.