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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 vegatables with bitsy little chunk of proteins.

I have no doubt that there is no dish called "chop suey" in China. 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 ask 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!

The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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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.....

<a href='http://www.longfengwines.com' target='_blank'>Wine Tasting in the Big Beige of Beijing</a>

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don't you filter and reuse the oil? did you tell her so?

No, I'm far too glamorous for that :laugh:

Actually, I don't because I don't like to reuse oil like that... having said that, I've now had my gallbladder out, so can't use that amount of oil anymore anyway :sad:

<a href='http://www.longfengwines.com' target='_blank'>Wine Tasting in the Big Beige of Beijing</a>

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don't you filter and reuse the oil? did you tell her so?

No, I'm far too glamorous for that :laugh:

Actually, I don't because I don't like to reuse oil like that... having said that, I've now had my gallbladder out, so can't use that amount of oil anymore anyway :sad:

ok regarding reusing oil...definitely a personal choice...I seal the meat in a hot wok but I don't use that much oil.

regarding the lack of gall bladder, I had mine out many years ago...it took a short while to handle any fat but now it is not a problem of any kind...I hope you have the same experience!

The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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Har Dep?

this is some kind of shrimp dish...what is the English translation of "har dep"?

The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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Sweet vegetable sauce?

In The Chinese Cook Book by Wallace Yee Hong (C. 1952), in recipe 108. Stir-Fry Pork With Oyster Sauce (Chow Ho-You Gee-Yoke), he refers to an ingredient he calls "sweet vegetable sauce". What is this sauce?

The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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Har Dep?

In The Chinese Cook Book by Wallace Yee Hong (C. 1952), is a recipe for Har Dep (some kind of shrimp dish).

What is the English translation of "har dep"?

The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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Sweet vegetable sauce?

In The Chinese Cook Book by Wallace Yee Hong (C. 1952), in recipe 108. Stir-Fry Pork With Oyster Sauce (Chow Ho-You Gee-Yoke), he refers to an ingredient he calls "sweet vegetable sauce". What is this sauce?

maybe Hoisin Sauce?

The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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Har Dep?

In The Chinese Cook Book by Wallace Yee Hong (C. 1952), is a recipe for Har Dep (some kind of shrimp dish).

What is the English translation of "har dep"?

Ha1 (蝦) = shrimp

Dip6 (碟) = dish

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  • 2 weeks later...
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 vegatables with bitsy little chunk of proteins.

I am still not convinced. I have seen a couple of references similar to that found at http://quezi.com/720

""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.""

Edited by dmreed (log)

The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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New York versus West Coast Chinese Food?

A Korean waitress at one of my favorite sushi bars says she and her husband do not like any of the Chinese restaurants they have tried here in San Diego, CA but that they really love New York Chinese restaurant food!

What is the difference between the 2 coasts regarding Chinese restaurant food?

The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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In the "authentic" Chinese restaurants there probably isn't a huge difference. For instance, I've had dim sum in the East Coast, Midwest, West Coast, and in Canada and the differences are relatively minor. The bigger differences are between cities w/ larger Chinese populations and those with smaller ones.

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In the "authentic" Chinese restaurants there probably isn't a huge difference. For instance, I've had dim sum in the East Coast, Midwest, West Coast, and in Canada and the differences are relatively minor. The bigger differences are between cities w/ larger Chinese populations and those with smaller ones.

thanks...I would have thought the same thing about "authentic" Chinese restaurants but the waitress said she and her husband simply do not like the taste of any West Coast (San Diego) Chinese restaurant food of any style of cooking...when I recently asked her again to explain why, she said that it did not taste good like NYC Chinese food!

I have also heard that Vancouver has some of the best Chinese restaurants outside of China itself...why would that be when San Francisco Chinatown has been around for so long or so much longer?

Edited by dmreed (log)

The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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thanks...I would have thought the same thing about "authentic" Chinese restaurants but the waitress said she and her husband simply do not like the taste of any West Coast (San Diego) Chinese restaurant food of any style of cooking...when I recently asked her again to explain why, she said that it did not taste good like NYC Chinese food!

I'm not too familiar with the Chinese food scene in San Diego--its Chinese community is relatively small compared to those in SF, LA, NYC, Vancouver, and Toronto-- but you did say that the waitress was Korean, and there is such a thing as Korean-style Chinese food in the same way that there is American-style Chinese food, so that may be what she prefers. I believe NYC has the 2nd largest Korean population in the US behind LA.

I have also heard that Vancouver has some of the best Chinese restaurants outside of China itself...why would that be when San Francisco Chinatown has been around for so long or so much longer?

It's also a matter of demographics. Recent waves of immigration to Vancouver have drawn relatively wealthy Chinese from HK, and along with them highly skilled chefs to cater to their tastes. In contrast the older Chinese communities in the US have traditionally been made up of poorer immigrants from the countryside. Many people consider LA's Chinese restaurants the best in the US due to the area's large and prosperous community of Taiwanese immigrants.

Edited by sheetz (log)
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I'm not too familiar with the Chinese food scene in San Diego--its  Chinese community is relatively small compared to those in SF, LA, NYC, Vancouver, and Toronto-- but you did say that the waitress was Korean, and there is such a thing as Korean-style Chinese food in the same way that there is American-style Chinese food, so that may be what she prefers. I believe NYC has the 2nd largest Korean population in the US behind LA.

The waitress said they ate many styles of chinese food in NYC so I doubt she was talking about Korean-Chinese style food...so I am still curious what the difference in taste might be.

I do know that there is a very old company, Oriental Chow Mein Co., which has made a chow mein mix since 1926 and, according to the package, "The ingredients contained in this package will make a delicious meal of chow mein, of the type generally served in the better Chinese restaurants of southeastern Massachussetts". When I first heard about this mix, I ordered some just to try it out and I definitely do not much care for the taste!

I have asked various Chinese and others chefs where they are from and what their favorite "authentic" restaurant is here in San Diego. I have liked all the different varities of "authentic" Chinese food I have tried. I carry a note written in Chinese which specifies that I want Chinese food prepared like the Chinese people eat and, when ordering a spicy dish, it asks for spicy 15 on a scale of 1-10...I frequently actually get spicy food!

BTW I had my first Korean meal in Los Angeles back in 1959 at a woman's house who made Korean meals for homesick Korean students...in 1959 there were no Korean restaurants or Korean stores in L.A.

It's also a matter of demographics. Recent waves of immigration to Vancouver have drawn relatively wealthy Chinese from HK, and along with them highly skilled chefs to cater to their tastes. In contrast the older Chinese communities in the US have traditionally been made up of poorer immigrants from the countryside. Many people consider LA's Chinese restaurants the best in the US due to the area's large and prosperous community of Taiwanese immigrants.

Vancouver vs. S.F....that makes sense...thanks!

I have not tried Chinese restaurants in L.A. but I will keep that in mind when I visit my mom who lives in El Segundo next to LAX. Do you have any specific restaurants you can recommend in the L.A. area?

BTW where do you live?

The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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I have not tried Chinese restaurants in L.A. but I will keep that in mind when I visit my mom who lives in El Segundo next to LAX. Do you have any specific restaurants you can recommend in the L.A. area?

BTW where do you live?

I currently live in the Midwest, but I grew up in LA and regularly visit my family there. Restaurant recommendations--all the best Chinese places are to the East in the San Gabriel Valley.

We're Cantonese, so that's the stuff I'm most familiar with. NBC in Monterey Park is an old reliable standby HK/Cantonese restaurant, serving dim sum for lunch and specializing in seafood for dinner. Sea Harbour in nearby Rosemead is a local branch of an upscale Vancouver chain and serves more innovative Cantonese dishes. They do dim sum for lunch as well.

In Arcadia there's a branch of the famed Din Tai Fung chain of Taiwanese restaurants specializing in Shanghai style Xiao Long Bao (soup buns). There's a place in Monterey Park specializing in Beijing Duck, appropriately called The Duck House. China Islamic in Rosemead specializes in Halal style Chinese food. Little Fat Sheep in Monterey Park is famous for their Mongolian hot pots.

That ought to be enough to get you started!

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In the "authentic" Chinese restaurants there probably isn't a huge difference. For instance, I've had dim sum in the East Coast, Midwest, West Coast, and in Canada and the differences are relatively minor. The bigger differences are between cities w/ larger Chinese populations and those with smaller ones.

thanks...I would have thought the same thing about "authentic" Chinese restaurants but the waitress said she and her husband simply do not like the taste of any West Coast (San Diego) Chinese restaurant food of any style of cooking...when I recently asked her again to explain why, she said that it did not taste good like NYC Chinese food!

I have also heard that Vancouver has some of the best Chinese restaurants outside of China itself...why would that be when San Francisco Chinatown has been around for so long or so much longer?

As someone who lives in San Diego and has traveled to many Chinatowns in the U.S, I have to totally agree with the waitress. San Diego chinese food does not measure up.

To make grossly exaggerated generalizations (yet perfectly valid in my mind :raz: )...San Diego chinese food tends to be rooted in 1980's style Cantonese. Think sweet, cornstarch thickened, oyster-saucy, broccoli-studded food.

We don't have a huge Chinese population in San Diego, so there isn't a great demand for authentic, regional Chinese dishes. So, you get what the (non-Chinese) public wants...orange chicken, lemon chicken, mongolian beef, peking pork chop, moo shu, etc.

My last trip to New York was a great example of the difference between the two cities. I went to a small noodle restaurant and ordered a Chow Fun. Within minutes (literally...it couldn't have been more than 5 minutes), I had a steaming plate of noodles in front of me with that wonderful smoky wok-hay smell drifing up to my nose. In San Diego, I probably would have waited 20 minutes and gotten a dish filled with pale, greasy, barely warm noodles...

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I have not tried Chinese restaurants in L.A. but I will keep that in mind when I visit my mom who lives in El Segundo next to LAX. Do you have any specific restaurants you can recommend in the L.A. area?

BTW where do you live?

I currently live in the Midwest, but I grew up in LA and regularly visit my family there. Restaurant recommendations--all the best Chinese places are to the East in the San Gabriel Valley.

We're Cantonese, so that's the stuff I'm most familiar with. NBC in Monterey Park is an old reliable standby HK/Cantonese restaurant, serving dim sum for lunch and specializing in seafood for dinner. Sea Harbour in nearby Rosemead is a local branch of an upscale Vancouver chain and serves more innovative Cantonese dishes. They do dim sum for lunch as well.

In Arcadia there's a branch of the famed Din Tai Fung chain of Taiwanese restaurants specializing in Shanghai style Xiao Long Bao (soup buns). There's a place in Monterey Park specializing in Beijing Duck, appropriately called The Duck House. China Islamic in Rosemead specializes in Halal style Chinese food. Little Fat Sheep in Monterey Park is famous for their Mongolian hot pots.

That ought to be enough to get you started!

thanks, greatly appreciated...now I have to get up to L.A. and then travel East :>)

The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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  • 1 month later...
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 vegatables with bitsy little chunk of proteins.

I am still not convinced. I have seen a couple of references similar to that found at http://quezi.com/720

""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.""

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 link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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I think what hrtz8w is saying is that in China chop suey is really more a method or style of cooking than an actual dish you'd order from a restaurant like Peking duck or Mapo Dofu. Think of it as the Chinese equivalent to the American casserole. Sure, you could call a casserole American 'cuisine,' but when people are deciding where to go out to eat, they don't choose between pizza, steak, and casserole. It's just not something you expect to find on a restaurant menu.

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I think what hrtz8w is saying is that in China chop suey is really more a method or style of cooking than an actual dish you'd order from a restaurant like Peking duck or Mapo Dofu. Think of it as the Chinese equivalent to the American casserole. Sure, you could call a casserole American 'cuisine,' but when people are deciding where to go out to eat, they don't choose between pizza, steak, and casserole. It's just not something you expect to find on a restaurant menu.

I really appreciate your argument/description.

Regarding casseroles: there are cookbooks dedicated to casseroles and many famous cookbooks have casserole recipes...additionally, I recall seeing some diners on TV which feature American comfort food and their menus include casseroles including tuna casserole and folks do go to those diners for those dishes! As far as I know, there is no "Ameican Casserole".

I can accept your argument but to say that the dish does not have its origin in China seems to me to be false...the notion that some Chinese cook in early California put together a casserole for some gringos and that he called it "tsap sui" when asked for the name seems extremely plausible to me. And that over time in the Western World, the dish may have become more or less standard (as did tuna casserole) is beside the point...and it can be ordered in many Chinese restaurants.

I have a Chinese cookbook dedicated to Chinese casseroles and it seems to me that many "authentic" well-known Chinese dishes could be described as casseroles which have become somewhat standardized...it could well be that Mapo Dofu started out as a casserole of ingredients that were available and it was liked so much that it got a name and became a standard dish...it definitely has the characteristics of a stove-top casserole.

To have chop suey included in Chinese cookbooks seems as authentic to me as having Tuna Fiesta and Patio Crab Casserole appear in "Family Favorites" by the Culinary Arts Institues and Tuna Noodle Casserole in the 1997 "The Joy of Cooking" by Irma S. Rombauer.

Edited by dmreed (log)

The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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I recall seeing some diners on TV which feature American comfort food and their menus include casseroles including tuna casserole and folks do go to those diners for those dishes!

Yeah, but it seems to me the fact that this was featured in a TV program goes to show its rarity. I currently live in middle America and I have yet to see a restaurant with tuna casserole on the menu. Now, I'm not saying that it doesn't exist, but it's just not something people generally go out to a restaurant for.

I can accept your argument but to say that the dish does not have its origin in China seems to me to be false...

I don't know if anyone has claimed chop suey doesn't have its origins in China because if you ask someone from Toisan about it they will be certainly familiar with the name. That said, if you ask that person for a recipe, or ask them to recommend a restaurant that serves good chop suey, you will get very funny looks.

Edited by sheetz (log)
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I recall seeing some diners on TV which feature American comfort food and their menus include casseroles including tuna casserole and folks do go to those diners for those dishes!

Yeah, but it seems to me the fact that this was featured in a TV program goes to show its rarity. I currently live in middle America and I have yet to see a restaurant with tuna casserole on the menu. Now, I'm not saying that it doesn't exist, but it's just not something people generally go out to a restaurant for.

I can accept your argument but to say that the dish does not have its origin in China seems to me to be false...

I don't know if anyone has claimed chop suey doesn't have its origins in China because if you ask someone from Toisan about it they will be certainly familiar with the name. That said, if you ask that person for a recipe, or ask them to recommend a restaurant that serves good chop suey, you will get very funny looks.

I did say diners not restaurants...I suspect that you will find various casseroles on the menus or daily specials list at many mom and pop and other diner style eateries. shucks, you can even find "chop suey sandwiches" at some places (Chinese and otherwise) on the northern East Coast!

how about asking someone from Toisan what kinds of ingredients might appear in tsap sui (I recall reading that in the "old" days, Chinese "recipes" might mention the primary ingredients possibly including sauce(s) and maybe the cooking style but not the amounts of each ingredient)? any decent cook would know how to treat the cooking process and ingredients.

how about seriously asking how one might go about sampling various versions or examples of tsap sui...maybe you would be invited to someone's home!

The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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how about asking someone from Toisan what kinds of ingredients might appear in tsap sui

Sure.

sheetz: Hey Mom, since you're from Toisan, could you tell what you put in tsap sui?

sheetz's mother: Don't be silly, you get whatever you have on hand, chop them up, and stir fry them together. Now get lost and stop bothering me!

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