Chop Suey (Chopsuí) is one of the three most popular recipes in Chinese-Dominican culinary culture, and it is as light a dish as you make it.
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 has made it such a popular dish, or maybe it was because it contains a lot of vegetables, which makes for a filling, inexpensive dish.
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.
About our recipe
This is a decidedly Dominican-style adaptation of a dish, that as you've read above, has a complicated history. If you go to a Chinese restaurant on La Duarte Av. in Santo Domingo (where Chinatown is located), the dishes tend to be more "authentic" (for lack of a better term), the further you get from people of actual Chinese heritage the recipe gets more flexible.
I am a huge fan of those La Duarte restaurants, but I am not going to pretend that this recipe will yield the same results. It's very tasty and more accessible, though, so at least it has that going for it.
Chop Suey Recipe (Chopsuí)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 cup low-salt soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoons vegetable oil for frying, (peanut, soy or corn)
- 2 lb chicken breasts, [0.9 kg], skinned and cut into thin strips
- A pinch of pepper
- A pinch of salt
- 1 stalk of celery, cut into slices
- ½ cup green peas, cut into slices
- 1 piece ginger, cut into very fine slices
- 1 large carrot, cut into thin strips
- 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
- 2 cloves of garlic, cut into thin slices
- 1 bell pepper, cut into thin strips
- 1 pack pak choi, cut into slices (optional)
- 1 lb baby corn, [0.22 kg] cut into halves
- 1 stalk leek, cut into slices
- Make sauce: Mix sugar, soy sauce, and cornstarch. Set aside.
- Season chicken: Pat dry the chicken. Season with a pinch of pepper and a pinch of salt.
- Brown chicken: Heat the oil in a wok (see notes) over very high heat.Add the chicken and cook and stir constantly until it turns golden brown.
- Add vegetables: Stir in 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 stirring for 30 seconds.
- Add sauce: Add the soy sauce mix and cook stirring for 30 seconds, or until the sauce has thickened a bit.
- Serve: Remove from the heat and serve immediately accompanied with arroz blanco.