What is Beef Chop Suey? History and Origins of the Chinese-American Dish

Beef chop suey is a classic Chinese-American stir fry dish made with tender slices of beef and mixed vegetables in a flavorful sauce. It’s a menu staple of Chinese restaurants across America. But what exactly is chop suey? Let’s explore the origins and ingredients behind this beloved dish.

A Brief History of Chop Suey

The term “chop suey” means “mixed pieces” or “odds and ends” in Chinese. It refers to dishes made with varied ingredients and leftovers. But the Americanized beef chop suey we know emerged specifically on the West Coast in the late 1800s.

Chinese immigrants arriving in America often opened restaurants and adapted their cooking to appeal to local tastes. The stir frydish we call chop suey likely originated from these early Chinese-American eateries. It became hugely popular across the country by the early 1900s.

While the exact origins are uncertain, chop suey grew into a classic fusion of American preferences like beef and Chinese cooking techniques like wok frying. Its popularity endures today as an iconic takeout option.

Typical Ingredients in Chop Suey Recipes

There are many variations, but beef chop suey recipes commonly contain:

  • Beef – Thinly sliced beef, often quickly marinated or velveted for tenderness. Flank steak, sirloin, or ribeye are frequently used.

  • Onions – Sliced onions provide flavor and crunch.

  • Celery – Chopped celery adds texture and freshness.

  • Carrots – Julienned or diced carrots included for color and sweetness.

  • Mushrooms – Sliced mushrooms like white, cremini, oyster, etc.

  • Bean sprouts – For extra crunch and a boost of vitamins.

  • Water chestnuts – Canned water chestnuts add pleasant crunch.

  • Aroma vegetables – Garlic, ginger, and scallions enhance flavor.

  • Sauce – A savory sauce ties it all together. It often contains soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil.

  • Thickener – Cornstarch creates the signature glossy chop suey sauce.

Recipes can also include other vegetables like snow peas, broccoli, bell peppers, cabbage, bamboo shoots, baby corn, etc. The vegetable possibilities are endless!

Signature Cooking Method

The technique used to create chop suey is essential. A sizzling hot wok and quick stir frying result in tasty, tender beef and crisp-tender vegetables. Here are the basic steps:

  • Velvet the beef – Marinate thin slices in soy sauce, rice wine, cornstarch, etc for 15-30 minutes. This tenderizes the meat.

  • High heat wok – Use a well-preheated wok or skillet at high heat for proper stir-fry technique.

  • Cook beef in batches – Quickly sear beef in small batches to prevent steaming.

  • Remove beef, keep warm – Once cooked, transfer beef to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

  • Stir fry vegetables – Add more oil and stir fry onions, carrots, mushrooms and harder vegetables first. Then add softer vegetables like bean sprouts.

  • Make sauce – Mix sauce ingredients like soy sauce, oyster sauce, broth, rice wine, and cornstarch.

  • Return beef, coat – Add sauce and return beef to wok. Toss everything to coat beef and vegetables with thick, flavorful sauce.

The final chop suey is a colorful medley of tender beef slices and crisp-tender vegetables drenched in a savory Chinese-American sauce. Served over steamed rice, it’s the ultimate comfort food.

Regional American Variations

Chop suey evolved distinct regional variations as it spread across America:

  • Mandarin chop suey – The San Francisco style often adds bamboo shoots, mushrooms, water chestnuts, and chicken stock.

  • Chicago chop suey – Features bean sprouts, soy sauce, and oyster sauce in the thin sauce.

  • New York chop suey – Uses a thickened sauce more like brown gravy. Diced onions are also common.

  • Chinese-Canadian chop suey – Has carrots, celery, onions, and green peppers as standard vegetables.

So recipes can vary across North America based on local tastes!

Popular Ways to Enjoy Chop Suey

There are many tasty ways to savor this Chinese-American favorite:

  • Over steamed white rice – The traditional accompaniment to soak up the flavorful sauce.

  • With fried rice – For added texture and flavor contrast.

  • Over chow mein noodles – The crispy noodles pair nicely with the sauce.

  • Stuffed in a taco or burrito – A fun fusion of Chinese and Mexican flavors.

  • Inside an omelet – For brunch, add leftovers to egg for a unique chop suey omelet.

  • Over cauliflower rice – A low carb option that captures the flavors.

  • In a lettuce wrap – For a lighter, wrapped approach to this saucy dish.

Get creative with how you enjoy this versatile classic!

Nutrition & Benefits

A veggie-packed beef chop suey offers:

  • Protein – The beef provides filling protein. Chicken or tofu can also be used.

  • Vitamin A – From carrots, celery, mushrooms, and other vegetables.

  • Vitamin C – Bell peppers, snow peas, broccoli, and cabbage pack vitamin C.

  • Fiber – Onions, mushrooms, bean sprouts, and carrots supply fiber.

  • Iron – Beef contains heme iron, absorbed better than plant sources.

With plenty of vegetables and lean beef, chop suey can be a nutritious one-dish meal in moderation.

Chop Suey vs. Other Chinese Favorites

How does chop suey differ from some other popular Chinese dishes?

  • Stir fry – Chop suey is a type of stir fry, but traditional Chinese stir fries use less sauce and often oyster sauce vs. soy.

  • Chow mein – Chow mein is made with noodles while chop suey is served over rice. Chow mein also cooks ingredients separately.

  • Lo mein – Lo mein noodles are soft while chop suey uses crispy chow mein noodles as a topping.

  • Fried rice – Fried rice is drier than the saucy chop suey and uses day-old cooked rice.

While related, chop suey offers its own unique flavors and textures!

The Evolution of an Chinese-American Classic

Chop suey remains a beloved staple of American-Chinese cooking. While its exact origins may be murky, the appeal of this zesty beef and vegetable dish is crystal clear. Sink your teeth into sizzling hot chop suey and you’ll taste why it became so popular across the country! This tasty fusion cuisine combines the best of Chinese wok technique with American tastes for a dish that continues satisfying eaters today.

Beef Chop Suey |Easy And Tasty Beef And Vegetable Stir Fry |


What is the difference between beef chop suey and beef chow mein?

Although the two dishes may seem similar, the way they are prepared sets them apart as distinct dishes. The sauces for each dish are markedly different, with chop suey usually having a thicker, starchy gravy-like sauce, while chow mein is prepared with a thinner soy-sauce based topping.

What does chop suey consist of?

Chop suey (usually pronounced /ˈtʃɒpˈsuːi/) is a dish from American Chinese cuisine and other forms of overseas Chinese cuisine, generally consisting of meat (usually chicken, pork, beef, shrimp or fish) and eggs, cooked quickly with vegetables such as bean sprouts, cabbage, and celery, and bound in a starch-thickened

What is another name for beef chop suey?

American chop suey is an American pasta casserole made with ground beef, macaroni and a seasoned tomato sauce, found in the cuisine of New England and other regions of the United States. Outside New England it is sometimes called American goulash or Johnny Marzetti, among other names.

Which is healthier chop suey or chow mein?

Chop suey can be healthier if it’s made with steamed vegetable and rice opposed to chow mein made with fried noodles. You can, of course, alter the chow mein using boiled noodles for a better option.

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