American and Chinese Chop Suey

Chop Suey recipes began to be found in cookbooks from the late 1800s and into the 1900s. Recipes for chop suey are seldom seen in today’s cookbooks.  Both versions became a fad around the country during the 1920s.

Chop suey was once thought to have been created in the Americas. Now that theory seems to have changed. According to the Food Timeline food historians now say based on texts found the original may have been created in Canton China, not in America as previously thought and that it was a dish that used up scrapes.

There are two different versions of chop suey, one using local ingredients, such as tomatoes, with no oriental items and the other using some local plus some oriental ingredients. Chop suey was fed to the workers while they were laying the track for the Pacific Railroad in the 1800s. One pot meals were a staple during the early 20th century and both versions of chop suey became popular one pot meals in American homes.

My Mom said both of these recipes were popular during the 1930s in Chicago. The recipes were taught to her by my Great Aunt. Each version is good in its own unique way. Both are served over rice or oriental noodles with soy sauce.

American Chop Suey


  • 1 ½ lbs. of hamburger
  • ½ lb. of ground pork
  • 4 large stalks of celery, sliced
  • 6 to 8 onions, chopped
  • 1 #2 can of tomatoes, do not drain
  • Flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Brown the meats in hot fat in a cast iron frying pan. Add salt and pepper to taste and the vegetables including the1 large #2 can of tomatoes. Sprinkle ¼ to ½ cup of flour over the top. Cover and let simmer, slowly 1 to 2 hours. Add more liquid if needed during the cooking time.

Chinese Chop Suey


  • 1 lb. round steak
  • 1/2 lb. veal steak
  • 1/2 lb. pork shoulder steak
  • Bacon fat
  • Good sized celery stalk, sliced fine
  • 6 to 8 onions, chopped
  • 1 can of bean sprouts, drained
  • 1 small can of mushrooms, drained
  • 2 tablespoons of bead molasses


Cut meat into cubes. Brown the cubes well in bacon fat in a large deep cast iron frying pan or Dutch oven. In another frying pan, brown the sliced celery and the chopped onions in bacon fat. Season the celery and onions with salt and pepper to taste. Put hot water in the pan with the meat, about ½ a cup, Add the contents of the other pan. Add liquid of any kind to cover. Simmer covered about 1 hour. Add 1 can of bean sprouts, 1 small can of mushrooms and 2 tablespoons of bead molasses. Let simmer about ½ hour over low heat, covered. Serve over rice or Chinese fried noodles with soy sauce.


My Mother and Great Aunt used bacon fat for browning most meats. They would save it in a container in the refrigerator.

Bead molasses can be found in the grocery store.

Both recipes were written by my great aunt and she never said to cover the pan or give the amount of water to add. I think my Mom guessed or remembered from watching her.

Bullion instead of water is much better.


About dwittopinions

A great grandmother living in the middle of the United States. My interests include art, needlework, reading, history, politics, and cooking.
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