NATIONAL CHOP SUEY DAY
Get your chopsticks ready! National Chop Suey Day recognizes this American Chinese culinary cuisine each year on August 29.
Chop suey, which means assorted pieces, is a dish in American Chinese cuisine. The main ingredients include meat (chicken, fish, beef, prawns or pork) and eggs. As the meat cooks over high heat, add vegetables (usually bean sprouts, cabbage, and celery). The dish is bound in a starch-thickened sauce. Typically, rice accompanies the flavorful dish, too.
According to food historian Alan Davidson, chop suey is “A prime example of culinary mythology.” These food myths happen with popular foods. Below we illustrate several colorful and conflicting stories telling of chop suey’s possible origin.
Chop Suey Stories
Some believe chop suey was invented in America by Chinese Americans. However, anthropologist E.N. Anderson finds another conclusion. According to Anderson, the word tsap seui means miscellaneous leftovers and hails from Taishan, a district of Guangdong Province. Many early Chinese immigrants traveled from their home in Taishan to the United States.
Another account claims Chinese American cooks who were working on the transcontinental railroad invented chop suey in the 19th century.
A prime example of culinary mythology. ~ Alan Davidson on the origin of chop suey.
One tale stemming from the Quing Dynasty connects to premier Li Hongzhang’s visit in 1896. According to the story, his chef wanted to create a meal suitable for both the Chinese and American palates. Another version of the story tells that Li wandered to a local Chinese restaurant after the hotel kitchen closed. Despite feeling embarrassed because he had nothing prepared to offer, the chef made a dish for Li. Comprised of leftover scraps, the chef created the new “chop suey” dish.
Still another myth tells of an 1860s Chinese restaurant cook in San Francisco. When drunken miners arrived after hours, the chef avoided a beating thanks to some quick thinking. He threw leftovers in a wok, providing a makeshift meal to the miners. The miners loved the dish, asking him for the name of the entree. To which the chef replied, “Chopped Sui.”
Traveling to the United States in 1903, Liang Oichao, a Guangdong native, wrote that there existed a food item called chop suey. While regularly served by Chinese restaurateurs, the local Chinese people did not eat this dish.
HOW TO OBSERVE #NationalChopSueyDay
Of course, the directive of the day would be to enjoy some chop suey. But why stop there? Dive into these suggestions:
- Take a cooking class and learn to make it yourself.
- Pick up a Chinese American cookbook and find a new recipe.
- Share your favorite chop suey recipe.
- Give a shout-out to the restaurant that cooks it best. We love it when you do that!
Be sure to use #NationalChopSueyDay to post on social media.
NATIONAL CHOP SUEY DAY HISTORY
National Day Calendar continues researching the origins of this elusive food holiday. However, one of the above origin stories places the invention on August 29, 1896.
Chop Suey FAQ
Q. Is chop suey a type of stir fry?
A. Yes. Stir fry is a type of meal prepared over high heat while being stirred frequently, and chop suey is prepared this way.
Q. When is National Eggroll Day?
A. National Egg Roll Day is June 10.
Q. Can chop suey be served over noodles?
A. Yes, but it is typically served over rice.
Q. Which has few calories, rice or noodles?
A. Rice has fewer calories than noodles. When considering the entire chop suey dish, about half the calories come from the protein. Rice comprises about a quarter of the calories and the remaining calories come from the sauce and vegetables.
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August 29th Celebrated (and Not So Celebrated) History
Bringing water to otherwise parched areas, Daniel Halladay of Connecticut invents the first commercially successful windmill in the United States. If you see an old wooden windmill on the landscape still towering over some farmland, think of Daniel Halladay.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing sets to work printing paper money for the first time due to the demands of the Civil War.
Astronomer William Huggins discovers the first chemical composition of a nebula – The Cat’s Eye Nebula.
Whitcomb L. Judson receives a patent for a Clasp Locker. However, he wasn’t the only one pursuing revolutionary clothing closures. Several other inventors tackled a similar design and purpose. Later known as the zipper, the inventions revolutionize how clothes go on and come off.
Tom Pettitt of Boston and George Kerr of Dublin square off in the first international lawn tennis contest. The event took place following the completion of the United States National Lawn Tennis Associations Nationals Tournament in Newport, RI. Kerr claimed victory over the match with a score of 6-4, 6-1 and 6-1.
Frank Seiberling of Akron, OH, establishes the Goodyear Tire & Rubbery Company.
The world’s first air race is held in Reims, France. American Glenn Curtis wins the race.
C.E. Doolin trademarks the product name Fritos.
Speedy Gonzalez makes his animation debut in the cartoon “Cat-Tails for Two.”
Four years after being established as a separate branch of the United States Military, the Air Force Academy opens in Colorado Springs, CO.
Roy Orbison releases the single “Oh, Pretty Woman” from the album Orbisongs. Over 25 years later, the film Pretty Woman, brings the song back into popularity.
While orbiting the Earth in Gemini 5, Astronaut Gordon Cooper made a telephone call to aquanaut Scott Carpenter who was submerged in Sealab II. Long-distance charges may apply.
The Gypsy Moths starring Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, and Gene Hackman begins showing in the United States. The film follows skydiving barnstormers through a July 4th weekend.
Theaters begin showing the film Desperately Seeking Susan starring Madonna, Rosanna Arquette, and Aidan Quinn
Janet Jackson releases the single “Runaway.”
The DVD rental service, Netflix, launches.
The biographical film Frida starring Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina and Mia Maestro shows in theaters.
Sanhua Aweco creates the longest line of chopsticks in Tychy, Poland. Interestingly, he completed the achievement on National Chop Suey Day.
August 29th Celebrated (and Not So Celebrated) Birthdays
John Locke – 1632
Considered the “father of liberalism,” the philosopher published several papers including “Enlightenment” and “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.” His theories also influenced the fledgling United States.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. – 1809
The physician was a member of the Fireside Poets alongside other great poets Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Cullen Bryant, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Werner Forssmann – 1904
The German physician made landmark strides in cardiac medicine when he proved a catheter could be inserted into the heart. In 1956, he along with André Cournand and Dickinson Richards were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Ingrid Bergman – 1915
The Swedish actress is best known for her roles in Casablanca, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and Murder on the Orient Express.
Otis Boykin – 1920
The inventor and engineer’s work on electrical resistors influenced the world of medicine, computers and more.
Joan Sindelar – 1931
Known for her reliable bat and slick running, Sindelar played 4 seasons in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
John McCain – 1936
John McCain served in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War and was a Prisoner of War for over 5 years. After his release, he entered the political arena and was elected to the United States House and later to the Senate. In 2008, he ran for president under the Republican ticket against Barack Obama.
James Brady – 1940
As White House Press Secretary under President Ronald Reagan, Brady was shot during an attempted assassination attempt on the President.
Karen Hesse – 1952
The author earned the Newbery Medal for her book Out of the Dust. She’s published numerous other young adult books including Phoenix Rising, Safekeeping and Aleutian Sparrow.
Michael Jackson – 1958
The award-winning musical artist began his career as part of the family group, Jackson Five. He would go on to produce numerous albums such as Thriller, Bad, and Invincible.
Brian Chesky – 1981
Chesky is the founder of Airbnb.