I always try to eat delicious food. Unfortunately I don't have that much money, so I have to cook a lot of it at home. But thats OK because I love cooking and I love eating at home with my wife. This is a website with my favorite recipes and a little bit of commentary.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Chop Suey!

I have been doing research on the venerated American dish chop suey.

The first time I ever had chop suey was for Christmas Eve dinner at my maternal grandmother's house. I remember the dish as being a slow cooked brown pork dish with soy sauce and Chinese vegetables. She served it with a choice of white rice and those crispy fried noodles. I am currently searching for that recipe.

A detailed history of chop suey can be found here. Here are the important tidbits:
Legend has it that, while he was visiting New York City, Chinese ambassador Li
Hung Chang's cooks invented the dish for his American guests at a dinner on
August 29, 1896. Composed of celery, bean sprouts, and meat in a tasty sauce,
the dish was supposedly created to satisfy both Chinese and American tastes.After 1896, Americans began to visit Chinese restaurants in large numbers for the first time. A chop suey fad swept big cities such as New York and San Francisco. Questioning the origins of the chop suey story, scholars suspect restaurant owners used the popular ambassador's name to inspire interest in a Chinese dish adapted for Americans.
Interestingly, chop suey made an appearance or two in the television series Deadwood.

I have been doing a little research on chop suey recipes. The one that sounds closest to what I used to eat on Christmas eve comes from the Woolworth's lunch counter. Apparently Woolworth's used to serve chop suey back in the 1950's. The recipe is designed for a pressure cooker. I have a pressure cooker but it is on loan to my friend in Kansas City. Instead of using a pressure cooker you could just slow cook the meat. The only reason Woolworth's used a pressure cooker was to get the slow cooked taste without having to start it at 4 in the morning. The pressure cooker was like the microwave of the 1950's.

I found another interesting recipe on the Food Network website. I like the variety of vegies featured in the Food Network Recipe.

Another excellent source for just about any recipe is Gourmet Magazine. I found a recipe in the

Gourmet Magazine, March 2002 issue. The Gourmet Magazine recipe seems to be more of a stir fry than a slow cooked recipe.

One of the more interesting things I found in my research is chop suey sandwiches. Aparently it is all the rage in a small town somewhere on the east coast.

I decided to try the Woolworth's recipe first. I modified it a little bit by adding ginger and garlic. At the end I added in some green onions.

Woolworth's Chop Suey (Improved)

1 1/2 pounds of pork, cut into cubes and dredged in flour
1 T oil
1 onion, diced
3 cups celery, chopped
3 T soy sauce
2 T molasses
1 t salt
1 t pepper
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 T chopped ginger
8 oz canned mushrooms
14 oz Chinese mixed vegies (see photo below)
1 bunch green onions

Brown the pork in the oil. Add in the onions and celery. I know 3 cups of celery sounds like a lot but seriously, add in the 3 cups celery. Pour just the liquid from the mushrooms and the vegies, saving the actual mushrooms and vegies for later. Add the soy sauce, molasses, salt, pepper, garlic and ginger.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally for about an hour and a half until the pork is nice and soft. Add in the mushrooms, Chinese vegies and green onions.

Cook until the everything is heated back up - about 5 minutes. To serve, lay down a layer of chow mien noodles, a layer of rice and some of the chop suey. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.