A recipe I originally posted in 2005 at b5media’s Noodles and Rice (now Blisstree).


Chop Suey has long been rumored to be an American creation rather than a Chinese one. A search around the ‘net will show you just how much this story has spread. From tales of an angry restaurateur trying to get back at some customers and serving them leftover veggies meant for the garbage, calling the dish “chopped sewage”, to a Chinese diplomat visiting the White House and not finding anything suitable to eat, prompting him to commandeer the kitchen and whip up a stir-fry for himself from whatever he found there. These stories can be found even in cookbooks written by Chinese-Americans, such as Calvin Lee’s. Giving credence to the legend is the absence of “chop suey” in the more traditional Chinese cookbooks, such as Irene Kuo’s and Eileen Yin Fei Lo’s books. However, when the book The Food of China came out in 1988, the question of chop suey’s origins finally had an answer. In it, Eugene Anderson reveals that in fact, Chop Suey is from Toisan, a district south of Canton, from which early immigrants to America came. The words chop suey come from tsap seui, meaning miscellaneous scraps. Mr. Anderson further reports that the dish usually has noodles and bean sprouts included.

This particular chop suey has neither. It is how chop suey is usually prepared in the Philippines — a little pork, a little shrimp, sometimes a little chicken, a whole bunch of veggies. Whether or not you use leftovers is up to you. (What intrigues me is how this dish got to the Philippines — was it brought over by the Chinese, or by the Americans?)

You start out with a basic Filipino saute of garlic and onions, then add the meats and seasoning, then the veggies, then a bit of thickening sauce at the end. It is fast, delicious, and lends itself to endless experimentation. The amounts given here are approximations. Vary according to what you have in the refrigerator or freezer.

This dish can be made without any meat, so it’s very adaptable for Lent and for vegetarians/vegans.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup sliced onions
1/4 cup chopped shrimp
1/4 cup shredded pork (I like using lean pork, but you may use just about any cut of pork you like)
1/4 cup shredded chicken (you may also use cooked chicken)
salt or fish sauce to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
6-8 cups chopped vegetables (e.g., broccoli, sweet bell peppers, cauliflower, carrots, sliced cabbage or Napa cabbage, bok choy, frenched green beans, spinach, celery, etc. — it’s always nice to have a mix so your dish ends up colorful)
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon sugar

Mix oyster sauce, soy sauce, cornstarch, chicken stock and sugar together in a small bowl. Set aside until needed.

Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onions when hot but not smoking. Saute/stir-fry until onions are limp. Add shrimp, pork and chicken. Season with salt or fish sauce and black pepper to taste. Cover and let cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir, then cover again and cook another 5 minutes, until pork is cooked through. (If using a lean cut such as tenderloin, reduce cooking time to the first 5 minutes only.) Add vegetables and stir-fry, adding first those that take longer to cook, such as carrots and green beans, cooking them for a few minutes, then adding those that take less time, such as cabbage and other leafy vegetables. When veggies are almost completely cooked, return to high heat. Give the oyster sauce mixture a final stir and pour into the pan. Quickly fold sauce into vegetables to coat and thicken. Remove from heat.

Serves 4-6.

A recipe I originally posted in 2005 at b5media’s Noodles and Rice (now Blisstree).