The following includes posts to eGullet.com, I hope that the sequence and discussion is clear:
|May 18 2009, 09:47 PM
QUOTE(dmreed @ Aug 2 2008, 07:35 AM)
I am under the impression that "chop suey" really just means essentially "odds and ends", i.e., left-overs, which are thrown/cooked together.
Is this correct? If so, then I would suspect that "chop suey" has existed in China and all over the globe since time immemorial!
In "The Chinese Cook Book" by Wallace Yee Hong (c. 1952), he states, "The basis of chow yoke (stir-fry pork) dishes is mixed vegetables. Even the well-known (in America) chop suey is of this family. In chow yoke, you can use whatever vegetables you happen to have on hand and whatever meat is available."
His recipe "96. Stir-Fry Pork Chop with Assorted Vegetables (Chow Pork Chop Kew)" includes all the usual ingredients for chop suey except that bean sprouts are not mentioned and a little tomato catsup is used. Does this make the case for a traditional chop suey in China?
May 19 2009, 05:34 PM
QUOTE(hzrt8w @ May 19 2009, 05:02 PM)
QUOTE(dmreed @ May 18 2009, 10:47 PM)
Does this make the case for a traditional chop suey in China?
"To clarify: There is no "traditional" chop suey in China. There is no "chop suey" in China.You won't find "chop suey" in menus among the restaurants in China. It is a North-American thing. In spirit it is the Chinese way - stir-frying local vegetables with bitsy little chunk of proteins."
I have no doubt that there is no dish called "chop suey" in China by that name. But what is the difference between so-called "chop suey" and "Chow Pork Chop Kew" that I mentioned except for the lack of bean sprouts?
I probably should put the name of the dish "chop suey" in quotes and asked about dishes found in China which have the same/similar ingredients and are cooked in the various ways "chop suey" is cooked varying from stir-fry to pressure cooker!
May 19 2009, 11:11 PM
There is a dish found here in family-style restaurants (think I last saw it at one of the 9-head bird restaurants 九头鸟) which is called 'chao suibian' 炒随便 'stir-fry as-it-goes' sort of meaning). It's about the closest (and it's pretty darn close - same ethos certainly). I've come to chopsuey here! My mum reckons that they are etymologically linked....but I dunno.....
QUOTE(dmreed @ Jun 1 2009, 12:02 AM)Aug 4 2009, 08:53 PM
QUOTE(hzrt8w @ May 19 2009, 05:02 PM)
QUOTE(dmreed @ May 18 2009, 10:47 PM)
dmreed: Does this make the case for a traditional chop suey in China?
hzrt8w: "To clarify: There is no "traditional" chop suey in China. There is no "chop suey" in China. You won't find "chop suey" in menus among the restaurants in China. It is a North-American thing. In spirit it is the Chinese way - stir-frying local vegatables with bitsy little chunk of proteins."
dmreed: I cannot disagree about chop suey (or any of its other names) not appearing in menus among restaurants in China BUT I am still not convinced that chop suey is not an authentic dish. I have seen a couple of references similar to that found at http://quezi.com/720 (link appears to be discontinued).
"There is a rural district south of Canton, China called Toisan. This was the point of origin for most of the early immigrants from China to California. There they make a dish of miscellaneous items called tsap seui which means miscellaneous scraps. It is also called shap sui in Cantonese.
"Mostly it is made of leftover vegetables, stir-fried together, often with noodles, and bean sprouts are almost universally included. The rest of the dish varies according to what ever is found in the kitchen.
"Now, one may hold any opinion one wants. But the tsap seui, shap sui, chop suey, connection is very difficult to ignore."
(2010/05/25: in Flavor & Fortune magazine, Summer 2010 17/2, the following spellings are also provided - "Tap seui" and "Tsa sui")
dmreed: Just another reference to Chinese "chop suey":
In "The Chinese Kitchen - A Traditional Approach to Eating" by Yong Yap Cotterell (c. 1986) on page 9, she writes, "Opium spread to restaurants, where it was served with meals, especially in 'wine restaurants'. Poorer people found solace in humbler eating houses, and the very poor made do with boiled left-overs from restaurants, zacui - anglicized as 'chop-suey'. Until quite recently this was the diet of beggars and rickshaw pullers."
I continue to find references to Chinese "chop suey" regardless of the various stories which claim that chop suey was invented in the USA...some say on the West Coast and others say on the East Coast.
The True History of Chop Suey
From Andrew Coe, for About.com
What is chop suey? In Chinese, the two characters for chop suey are pronounced "tsa sui" in Mandarin or in Cantonese "shap sui," meaning "mixed small bits" or "odds and ends." As a culinary term, shap sui refers to a kind of stew made of many different ingredients mixed together. Shap sui probably first came to the United States with the waves of Chinese immigrants drawn to the California gold fields. Most came from the South China coasts Pearl River Delta and particularly the town of Toishan. In the 1870s, the Chinese were pushed from the American West by racial violence, migrating to cities like Philadelphia, Boston, and New York. There Americans first noticed a dish called "chow-chop-suey."
New York's first Chinese restaurants caught the attention of a group of artists and writers called the Bohemians. In the 1880s, a few of them ventured down to Mott Street to eat: Chow-chop suey was the first dish we attacked. It is a toothsome stew, composed of bean sprouts, chickens gizzards and livers, calfes tripe, dragon fish, dried and imported from China, pork, chicken, and various other ingredients which I was unable to make out."
To their surprise, they enjoyed the experience: "The meal was not only novel, but it was good, and to cap the climax the bill was only sixty-three cents!"
Soon thousands of non-Chinese were regularly making the trip to Mott Street to eat chop suey. Chinese restaurateurs also opened eateries outside of Chinatown, serving food adapted to the tastes of largely non-Chinese customers. Chop suey was standardized into a stew of easily identifiable meats cooked with bean sprouts, onions, celery, and bamboo shoots. By the 1920s, the dish had spread across the United States, becoming as popular as hot dogs and apple pie.
However, rumors spread that chop suey wasn't really Chinese at all. Tales circulated that it was concocted by a San Francisco Chinese boardinghouse cook using scraps retrieved from the garbage. The "experts" who recounted these stories were usually Chinese diplomats or students for whom this Toishanese peasant food didn't seem "Chinese" at all.
Chinese-American food peaked in the 1950s, the era of "one from column A and two from column B" family dinners. Chop suey was now cheap, familiar comfort food. It was also getting tired. Chefs had been preparing chop suey for so long that they no longer cared about the results. Chinese-American restaurants slowly lost market share to pizza joints and fast food hamburger stands. In big cities, gourmets preferred the new Chinese restaurants serving Peking duck or the fiery dishes of Sichuan. And then in 1972 President Nixon went to Beijing, and Americans decided they wanted to taste the "real" food of China. "Fake" chop suey was a thing of the past.
Today, dishes like Kung Pao shrimp and chicken with broccoli (that are just as "real" as chop suey) rule Chinese restaurant menus. Chop suey is almost as dead as vaudeville, probably beyond revival. But if you go down to Chinatown, find a Toishanese chef, and convince him that you want Chinese-style shap sui, you will discover that it can be a toothsome stew.
|2009/11/01 dmreed: I have found several Chinese restaurants (primarily Cantonese) here in San Diego, CA where they still make chop suey fresh and tasty.|
|2010/01/14 another reference:|
Georges Spunt "The Step-By-Step Chinese Cookbook", Thomas Crowell, Publishers, 1973.
"Every writer of Chinese cookbooks lays claim to a story about this particular dish. Most are agreed that Chop Suey, as we know it, is an American adaption of an old Cantonese standby called Sub Gum."