Many of our readers have let us know how much they appreciate the background information we provide on many of our dishes, their origins and cultural context. What you may not know is how much we enjoy doing this research, learning about our food and culture, and about the people that have given them to us.
If you haven’t done so, we invite you to read the fantastic introduction Aunt Ilana wrote about chofan (Chow Fan) – one of the most popular dishes of Chinese-Dominican cuisine – and about the Dominican-Chinese community. Today we bring you another of their dishes, but unlike chofan this is usually considered a restaurant fare.
There exists the belief that chop suey (or “chopsuee”, as it would be pronounced by most Dominicans), like many other dishes of Chinese origins in the Americas, is not really Chinese but a local adaptation. This is more false than true.
The original name of chop suey is za sui, which in Cantonese (most of the early Chinese immigrants to America were from the province of Canton) means “assorted pieces”, a very descriptive name. Obviously the ingredients available in America differed from those found in China. The dish was adapted, but its origins can be traced back to China.
Maybe these adaptations are what have made it such a popular dish, or maybe it was because it contains a lot of vegetables, which makes for a filling, inexpensive dish.
Let’s appreciate the fact that this dish, if we mind the amount of fat and salt in it, can be a very healthy choice. The lean protein in the chicken breast, combined with that many nearly-raw vegetables, makes it a dish suitable for most diets.
Strangely, and unlike chofan, chop suey is seldom made at home. I suppose few people have noticed how easy it is to prepare, and how easy it is to obtain the ingredients in it. With this recipe, adapted from the many I have tried, we hope you decide to give it a try.
This is one of the three most popular recipes in Chinese-Dominican culinary culture, and it can be as healthy a dish as you make it to be.
- 2 lb. of chicken breasts, skinned and cut into thin slices
- 1 cup of low-salt soy sauce
- 1 large carrot, cut into thin strips
- 1 stalk of celery, cut into slices
- 1 bell pepper cut into thin strips
- 1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
- 1/2 cup of green peas cut into slices
- 1 stalk of leek, cut into slices
- 1 pack of pak choi, cut into slices (optional)
- 1 cup of baby corn, cut into halves
- 1 piece of ginger, cut into very fine slices
- 2 cloves of garlic, cut into thin slices
- 1 tablespoons of oil for frying (I used peanut oil)
- 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
- Mix sugar, soy sauce and cornstarch. Reserve.
- Pat dry the chicken. Season with a pinch of pepper and a pinch of salt.
- Heat the oil in a wok (or large thick bottom pot) over very high heat.
- Add the chicken and cook and stir constantly until it turns golden brown.
- Add the celery, peas and ginger, cook and stir for 30 seconds.
- Add the carrot, broccoli and garlic, cook and stir for 30 seconds.
- Add the bell pepper, pak choi, baby corn and leek, cook and stir for 30 seconds.
- Add the soy sauce mix and cook stirring for 30 seconds.
- Serve immediately accompanied with white rice.