It’s funny, I have only vague recollections of eating chop suey. My grade school served something chop suey-ish, emphasis on the ish. I don’t recall eating the stuff, yet seared in my mind is an image of a thick brown glob of gunk with unidentifiable vegetables. Then there’s an image of canned chop suey that probably made it from can to table but I can’t recall, and I bet that’s a good thing. Despite my inexperience, I have a general sense of how chop suey tastes – mediocre and bland spring to mind. I know celery is a prominent feature of the dish and sometimes it’s the only distinguishable vegetable. I know that chop suey’s consistency is often questionable and that it often tastes bad, sometimes really bad. I never order chop suey from Chinese restaurants because so many dishes are better. Long story short, I hardly ever eat chop suey. So when a chop suey craving hit the other day it was quite clear that I must be pregnant (I’m not). Or maybe I am. I must confess that after fulfilling my craving and making homemade chop suey that I find the dish comforting in a weird gravy kind of way, and when it’s a good chop suey, as mine is, then the gravy can even be strangely crave-able.
It’s a dish of necessity, about using the few (and cheap) vegetables -celery, onion, garlic, and cabbage- that have survived those “haven’t gone shopping in awhile” periods and then supplementing with leftover meat and frozen vegetables, a real “make it work” kind of meal. One day I found myself with frozen rotisserie chicken, a frozen vegetable medley, and very little else, and the kids were well beyond the point of happiness- this meal needed to be on the table soon. My daughter requested pink rice (rice with soy sauce) for dinner so my head was in an Asian space, and as I was cutting celery trying to come up with a dish, it dawned on me that I had the makings of chop suey, and the frozen vegetables and celery weren’t good for much else. So I set out to make chop suey and it wasn’t half bad. So I made it again and people ate it. They said they liked it. All was well with the world.
Chop suey is incredibly budget-friendly and easy to make. With frozen vegetables and shredded rotisserie chicken at the ready (shredding and freezing rotisserie chicken can be a lifesaver), Yummy Chop Suey makes a healthy go-to meal for those days when minutes matter. The fresh features of the dish- cabbage, celery, garlic, and onions- last a long time in the fridge, making it a perfect meal to have on hand for those times when your vegetable drawer needs replenishing. For all of my chop suey badmouthing, I must say the dish is quite delicious. It’s not testing the culinary waters by any means, nor should it. Chop Suey is meant to be simple and sloppy, yet homey and comforting in this regard. It’s not meant to be much of a looker, and it’s not, but add some colored peppers and pick a frozen vegetable medley with yellow squash, carrots, green beans, and broccoli and it looks pretty tasty. And it is tasty, thanks to a luscious sauce with sherry overtones, a hint of sesame oil, and a subtle peppery finish. Texture, or lack thereof, are often chop suey’s downfall. I like to serve the chop suey with rice and garnish with crispy chow mein noodles and green onions. You can also serve the chop suey on a bed of chow mein noodles for a total crunch-fest.