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Old 01-28-2008, 10:02 AM   #1
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Chow mein vs Chop suey

Anytime I order from a new restaurant, I usually get a few different dishes just to sample everything and decide what I like and dont like from the menu so i have a better idea what to get in future orders.

Anyway, I once ordered vegetable chow mein and vegetable chop suey. One was more expensive than the other, yet ,I couldnt see or taste any difference.

I was just wondering what the actual difference there is ( assuming there is any) or were they just laughin in the kitchen when some jackass ( me ) spent more on a dish that was identical to the other,

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Old 01-28-2008, 10:26 AM   #2
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I always heard one was served with noodles and the other with rice...never could remember which was which.
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Old 01-28-2008, 10:31 AM   #3
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Doesn't chop suey come with crispy noodles? Don't usually order it. Chow mein is nice though but again, tend not to order it very often.

I'm doing something with my local Chinese too Larry. They just changed hands so I'm not ordering the same dishes twice so that I get an idea. The part of Perth I live has awful Chinese - very commercial style and very pedestrian. Go over the river or into the West and things improve.
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Old 01-28-2008, 10:49 AM   #4
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"Chow Mein" is the one normally served with crisp noodles. In fact, while I may be wrong here, I do believe I read somewhere that it's the opposite of "Lo Mein", which is virtually the same dish, but with soft noodles.

"Chop Suey" isn't served with noodles at all - in fact, it's not even really of Chinese origin, more of a bastardized American version of Chinese food from way back when. Just a bland mixture of vegetables & meat served over rice.
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Old 01-28-2008, 10:52 AM   #5
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Yeah you're right Breezy. We did get crispy noodles with the chow mein. Like I said don't order it very often.
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Old 01-28-2008, 11:15 AM   #6
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"mein" means noodle in Cantonese, I think
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Old 01-31-2008, 10:08 PM   #7
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BTW.... being Chinese.... everyone has heard of chop suey, but i have never seen that at a respectable Chinese restaurant (and never ate it or made it)

If you are Chinese, you usually only go to Chinese restaurants for holidays because you could probably make..... 3/4ths of the food better than the restaurant did. (at least that is true in my family)
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Old 02-01-2008, 08:38 AM   #8
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i agree with breezy that chop suey was invented in america, probably by chinese imigrants trying to recreate dishes of their home land. using american ingredients, they made a dish of "tsap soo-ee", translated as "mixed pieces".

i've also noticed that some restaurants serve pretty much the same thing for either dish, just including fried noodles with the chow mein.

the better places will make chow mein with mostly white veggies and sauce, while chop suey had more varied/colorful ingredients and a slightly darker suace.
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Old 02-01-2008, 10:14 AM   #9
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Chop = mixed
Suey = vegetables or any accompaniment to rice (which may include meat/fish)

Chow = stir-fried
Mein = noodles

Chow mein is basically stir-fried noodles topped with chop suey.

This may explain the confusion.
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Old 02-01-2008, 10:15 AM   #10
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In high school I sat in front of a Chinese girl in home room. Her family owned a Chinese restaurant nearby. this was seriously "back in the day," when Chinese restaurants DID sell "Chop Suey," along with the real Cantonese dishes.

Anyway, Janice told me that Chop Suey was invented by the Chinese restaurateurs FOR Americans because they wanted the food to be bland. and most restaurants used tossed all the leftovers from the other dishes into one pot and sold it as "Chop Suey!" I learned long ago to order one meat and one veggie in most old-time Chinese restos -- such as beef with broccoli.... or pork with Chinese spinach. Still like both of those, today!
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Old 02-02-2008, 04:40 AM   #11
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Hey, chop suey is also a common Chinese dish in the Philippines. It refers to the same thing: mixed vegetables with some meat/seafood. Not sure if there's chop suey in other Asian countries.

Don't know about chopsuey having been invented to cater to bland tastes. It makes more sense that it was invented to use up the various leftovers and meat scraps in the kitchen :-)
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Old 02-02-2008, 04:48 AM   #12
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It was my understanding it was invented in San Fransisco to use up the leftovers in the restaurant. The legend says the leftovers were mixed together and fed to the kitchen help at the end of the night.
I can't remember how it was they said it went from the kitchen help to the menu, but it wasn't from blandness. It was made from the leftovers, so it had the same spices and flavoring as the other dishes had.
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Old 02-02-2008, 12:46 PM   #13
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It may originally have contained the "spices and flavorings" from restaurant kitchen leftovers, but if you order it in a Chinese restaurant today - whether Chow Mein or Chop Suey - it is definitely BLAND - lol!!
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Old 02-02-2008, 03:39 PM   #14
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When younger I would eat seven dinners a week in NYC's Chinatown.

Knew waiters and owners. One owner would open his shop jsut for us and cook a meal - taking himself from his card game and drinking Johnny Walker Black on a taqble next to us. He did not seem to be a very good card player we noted.

Could read the Chinese menu then, but it was too many years ago and now no longer have that ability, sigh.

One would never find chow mein or chop suey on those menus. You could get fresh fish out of the tank they had, wonderful pork chops, all sorts of food. The Chinese cuisine is expansive. Most Americans just don't know about it.

But I do not shun the Europeanized version of Chinese food. I like some of it. Every once in a while we do a run to the local take out. They make very decent peanut butter noodles and egg foo yung. Is any of it authentic? Probably not, but it is tasty.

As an aside, someone should start a thread dealing with peanut butter noodles. If you have not had them you are bereft of one of the true wonderful foods the world has to offer. And they are easy to make. Yeah they are better with some Asian noodles but are terrific with just the spaghetti you find in the supermarket. You do not need an
Asian market.

Be warned, they are addictive.

Anyway, well off topic, have not seen any difference between what is called chop suey and chow mein. It is an olio of onions and peppers with cornstarch served over fried noodles or rice. I kinda like the fried noodles. And you can toss in chicken peices, shrimp, or something else.

Find a recipe you like, there are tons on the web, and enjoy.

And call it whatever you wish.
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Old 02-02-2008, 04:43 PM   #15
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Are you talking about "Cold Sesame Noodles", which are made - basically - with noodles (usually flat, like linguini), peanut butter, soy, a little chili-garlic paste, sesame seeds, & are usually topped with julienne of cucumber?

I make them frequently, & even tho the restaurants around here serve them chilled, I also find them just - if not more - tasty hot or at room temp.
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Old 02-02-2008, 11:41 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BreezyCooking View Post
It may originally have contained the "spices and flavorings" from restaurant kitchen leftovers, but if you order it in a Chinese restaurant today - whether Chow Mein or Chop Suey - it is definitely BLAND - lol!!
No doubt! The only ones that even carry it around here are the cheap take out ones, and I never order it. I just wonder how much of the legend is true, and how much is just legend...
My first choice is to head to Chinatown ;)
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Old 07-13-2010, 11:41 AM   #17
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I just want to say to people saying Chop Suey is bland, do you really mean not spicy? Because the dish on Long Island is def. not bland. I have it when I want something light and it hits the spot. It is usually made with a white sauce that is garlicky with onions, celery, and sometimes chinese cabbage. I usually add hot pepper oil but it is a dish I like to have once in awhile. It has plenty of flavor where I am just not a lot of heat.
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Old 07-13-2010, 12:41 PM   #18
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Since I'm originally from Long Island, where exactly do you enjoy it where "Chop Suey" is so enticing?

Because while I obviously never hit every Chinese eatery there, I never found one that made a "Chop Suey" any way but bland. Frankly, "Chop Suey" was never meant to be & isn't a "spicy" dish by nature, no matter who is making it. Bland - or "mild", if you prefer - dishes are just as much a part of the Chinese plate as the spicy stuff. If you enjoy them - that's what's important.

Take "Shrimp with Lobster Sauce" - something I enjoy making myself as well as enjoy in a restaurant. Definitely not spicy at all, but still delicious.
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Old 07-13-2010, 02:19 PM   #19
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When immigrants came to America, be they from Italy or China, they had to adapt their recipes to what was available here...using different meats, fish, fruits or vegetables. Bok Choy wasn't originally available but celery was. Chinese broccoli wasn't, but American hybrid broccoli was, etc... So some of these "Americanized" Chinese recipes are adapted cuisine and have become somewhat standard, as have many Italian-American recipes.
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Old 07-13-2010, 03:20 PM   #20
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I once asked a local Chinese restaurant what the difference was between chow mein and chop suey and they told me it was that one had bigger pieces of vegetables than the other!
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