Chopsuey (chopsuí or chapsui) is one of the most popular recipes of Chinese-Dominican culinary culture, and it is as light a dish as you make it. A versatile and inexpensive dish, it can be made with your favorite combination of vegetables or meat, and be ready in no time.
Why we ❤️ 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 their 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.
Setting that aside for a moment, chopsui or chapsui is one of those dishes that left the confines of Chinese cuisine brought by immigrants and became the kind of dish you may find in a far-flung corner of the Dominican Republic and enjoyed by all Dominicans.
What's chospsuey (chapsui, chopsui)?
Chopsuey (pronounced chopsui or chapsui) is the Spanish pronunciation of the Cantonese dish spelled chop suey in English.
Chopsui was brought to the country and popularized by the Chinese diaspora in the Dominican Republic, and it's one of the most popular dishes served in Dominican Chinese restaurants. You can read more further down.
Chapsuí (Dominican-style chop suey).
How to serve
We typically serve chapsui de pollo with a small bowl of white rice.
- For proper stir-frying, you need a seasoned wok and a high-flame burner. If you don't have either, the next best thing is to use a flat-bottomed cast-iron frying pan at the highest temperature your stovetop reaches.
- The secret ingredient in Chinese restaurants is MSG, available under the name brand Aji-no-moto (and others). Add a pinch to the sauce, or more to taste. Be mindful that the sodium content will be higher if this is something you worry about.
- You can add fewer or more vegetables to adapt it to your taste. Some typically found in Chinese food restaurants are bean sprouts, bok choy, white onion, and snow peas. No two chop suey recipes are alike. Other ingredients that can be used are mushrooms, broad beans, bamboo shoots, carrots, etc. Adapt the recipe to your taste.
- If you want to make a vegetarian version, eliminate the chicken and the corresponding steps.
- The trick to perfect chopsuey (cooked but al-dente vegetables) is – in short – cooking at high temperature; the vegetables are added starting with the ones that take longer to cook to the ones that take less time.
- You can make chopsuey with pork by following the exact instructions. Instead of chicken breast, you can use pork shoulder or pork butt and cut it into very thin strips. For beef chopsui, use very thinly sliced or cubed flank steak.
- To make shrimp chopsui, cook the vegetables in the order the recipe indicated, add the shrimp right when you add the sauce, and cook until the shrimp turn bright pink.
About our recipe
This is a decidedly Dominican-style adaptation of a dish to our gusto, 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 flavors 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 will not 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.
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Chop Suey Recipe (Chopsuí or Chapsui)
- 2 pound chicken breasts, [0.9 kg], skinless
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoons oil for frying, (peanut, soy or corn)
- 1 celery stalk, 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 garlic, cut into thin slices
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
- 1 pack pak choi, cut into slices (optional)
- 1 pound baby corn, [0.22 kg] cut into halves
- 1 stalk leek, cut into slices
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 cup soy sauce (low-sodium)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- Pat dry the chicken. Cut it into thin strips.Season with a pinch of pepper and a pinch of salt.
- 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.
- 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.
- Mix sugar, soy sauce, and cornstarch. Set aside.Add the soy sauce mixture and cook stirring for 30 seconds, or until the liquid has thickened a bit.
- Remove from the heat and serve immediately accompanied with arroz blanco.
Nutritional information is calculated automatically based on ingredients listed. Please consult your doctor if you need precise nutrition information.
More Chinese-Inspired dishes
Chow fan, or Dominican chofan is the most popular Chinese-Dominican dish, and shares with chopsui their versatility and inexpensiveness. Pica pollo (Dominican fried chicken pieces) is another dish that may trace its origins to the first Chinese Dominican restaurants.
Another favorite of mine is chicken and shrimp fried rice.
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 most Dominicans would pronounce it), 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 have made it such a popular dish, or maybe it was because it contains a lot of vegetables, making it 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 (check out this salmon stir fry).