Just what the heck is chop suey? I’ve lived in New York City my entire life and I don’t know. I’ve been Chinese my entire life and I still don’t know! I’ve always been told that chop suey, much like chow mein, is a Chinese-American dish, made for the American palate but has no culinary history in China. Thus, it’s been deemed as an inferior dish by my family and whenever we’re at a Chinese restaurant we never order it. How little did I know! While researching the topic, I learned that chop suey , directly translated to mean “assorted pieces,” didn’t originate in the United States, but in a Canton province in China, and brought to the United States by immigrants. There’s no “recipe” for chop suey: it’s, quite literally, a mish-mosh of whatever meat, vegetables, noodles, and sauce you have on hand. The ultimate stir-fry! Original articles about chop suey state that the dish contained chicken giblets and ingredients to other meats and dishes that didn’t go anywhere else–the Chinese version of a “waste not, want not” dish. But when Chinese food started becoming more accessible to non-Chinese palettes, the dish was altered to include easily-identifiable meats and more American vegetables, like onions and celery (my mom still tells me to this day to be wary of a Chinese restaurant that uses celery!) Chop suey may be looked down on by Chinese cuisine connoisseurs today, but in the early 20th century it was America’s favorite–and in some places, only–Chinese dish. Looking at its place in the history of American cuisine, it makes sense that we still have a Chop Suey Day on the calendar!
And what better place to eat a Chinese-American dish so steeped in culinary history than New York City, one of the first places in the country to offer chop suey (let alone Chinese food!) Because of its bad reputation for not being “authentic” many restaurants don’t offer a dish that’s directly called chop suey, but any dish that involves thick, gluey rice noodles, starchy sauce, and chopped meat and vegetables definitely counts as a chop suey. Try your hand in Bayside, Queens at Guh Song Restaurant. Here, they do not shy away from the chop suey moniker: they offer a spicy jjam-bong with seafood that completely makes you forget if this dish is “authentic” or not. Don’t be like my family and shy away from a dish just because it’s not the way “traditional” Chinese families will eat it. Try some chop suey today!
Guh Song Chinese Restaurant
4724 Bell Blvd, Bayside
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Affordable and good food. Best time to order is obviously during their lunch special. Jjajangmyun (black noodles) Jjambbong (spicy chop suey) and Tangsooyook (fried pork) are the best!”–Hye Soo H.
“Woah! The portions here are generous and made for sharing…but no one told our party of five we ended with three doggie bags. We each ended up order a dish (Seafood Gravy Noodle, Omelet Fried Rice, Spicy Seafood Noodle w/ Chop Suey, Brown Sauce Noodle and Jap Chae w/ Fried Rice) each and the Sweet and Sour Pork to share. Everything was tasty, not greasy and simply tasty!”–Angela N.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!