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Is Chop Suey Chinese or American?

Chop suey. Sounds Chinese, looks Chinese. There was no reason to question its Chinese credentials, until word slowly started to spread that chop suey is not really Chinese at all, but a dish invented in America for American tastes. Chop suey was first concocted in a San Francisco restaurant in the late 19th century. The story goes that, having sold out of food, the restaurant was in the process of closing for the evening, when a group of unsavoury characters arrived, demanding a meal. The cook felt compelled to improvise from leftover kitchen scraps. These bits and pieces were combined in a wok, and what emerged a few minutes later was chop suey, soon to become America's favourite (but unauthentic) Chinese dish. There are variations on this tale, but according to anthropologist E. N. Anderson none of them are true. The real origin of chop suey, Anderson says, lies far to the west of the Golden Gate Bridge, in Taishan (Toishan), a county (now a city) of the Pearl River Delta in southern Guangdong, China. Taishan was home to 60 percent of Chinese migrants to America in the second half of the 19th century – surrounding counties supplied most of the other 40 percent. For a hundred years the food served by these folks in America and other countries, completely defined western perceptions of Chinese cuisine. Taishan is known for dishes that combine many different kinds of vegetables – your basic mixed stir fry, something uncommon in other parts of China. So is chop suey a real Chinese dish? Yes. Is it Americanised? No doubt.

Sources: The Food of China
The Encyclopedia of the Chinese Overseas

















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