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Chop Suey to You

Chop Suey has become a tasty and popular Chinese-American dish. However, it is a mystery as to how this dish actually came about. There is a legend that tells the story of when Chinese Ambassador Li Hongzhang visited New York City. It says that Chang’s cooks invented chop suey for his American guests at a dinner on August 29, 1896. The recipe was fairly simple with meat mixed with celery and bean sprouts in a delicious sauce. It was meant to appeal to both the Chinese and the Americans.

The Chinese diplomat wanted to create good relations with the U.S. No one knows for sure if this story is true but it is known that Li Hongzhang did influence the creation of chop suey. When he arrived for his visit cheering Americans lined the streets hoping to get a look at him and his famous yellow jacket. Children decorated their bicycles with yellow streamers. Hongzhang was honored at many feasts and banquets and offered the best food and champagne. However, he chose to eat only what his chefs prepared for him.

Another look at chop suey tells us that most likely Hongzhang’s chefs did not invent this dish but that this visit gave a new interest in Chinese cooking. After 1896 Americans began to eat at Chinese restaurants a lot more. Finally, a chop suey fad swept through cities like New York and San Francisco. It is thought that Chinese restaurant owners wanted to draw interest to their food so they used the Ambassador’s name to spark interest in chop suey.

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  • Have you eaten chop suey?

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  1. I have always read about chop suey, but I don’t really know how it is. Must it served with rice or noodles? I am Chinese, and it looks like the style that we always stir fry vegetables or sometimes with rice or noodles as well. I am not sure if they are the same.

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