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Chow Mein Vs. Chop Suey: Know The Difference

If you have been reading my blog regularly, you have probably noticed that I’m a huge fan of Asian food. 

And why wouldn’t I be? It’s easy to make, nutritious and delicious. Chow Mein and Chop Suey are two dishes I like to prepare frequently. A funny thing happened last Friday.

One of my boys said that he would like to have Chop Suey for dinner, and when I cooked it, he realized that is not the dish he had in mind. It was Chow Mein all along.

That got me thinking. Many people don’t know the difference between the two.

If you are one of them, here’s what you need to know to understand the Chow Mein vs. Chop Suey confusion.

What is Chow Mein?

In short, this is a stir fry prepared with seafood, meat, veggies, and noodles. The name of the dish comes from chau-mèing, where 'chow' means fried, and 'mein' translates to noodles. 

There are several types of Chow Mein. Two most popular ones are crispy (Hong Kong style) and steamed. The latter one is usually made of round noodles, and it is very soft. 

Hong Kong style Chow Mein is made of flat noodles, and it is mostly dry and crispy.

Cooking style of Chow Mein

The concept of Chow Mein differs depending on where you eat it.

In the east coast of the U.S. for instance, you will get crispy deep-fried noodles, whereas on the west coast you will get steamed noodles.

Likewise, this dish is cooked with slight variations in the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil, South Asia and other parts of the world.

Chow Mein recipe

I could find you various recipes for Chow Mein depending on the varying cooking styles, but here, I’ll share with you the one I use the most frequently.

Note that the amount of the ingredients is something you can determine by yourself depending on the number of people you are preparing the meal for.

Ingredients

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    Wonton noodles (steamed or fried)
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    Chicken breasts (if you are preparing non-vegetarian Chow Mein)
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    Celery
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    Broccoli
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    Bean sprout
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    Bell pepper
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    Shiitake mushrooms
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    Onion
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    Soy sauce
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    Groundnut oil
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    Oyster sauce
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    Cornstarch

Preparation

  1. Cook the noodles for about five minutes. 
  2. Coat them lightly with groundnut oil to avoid them sticking together. You can also use sesame oil.
  3. Season the chicken with Chinese seasoning mixture and soy sauce.
  4. Coat the meat with cornstarch.
  5. Heat a wok over a high-heat burner.
  6. Add oil, and wait until it’s hot and smoking.
  7. Add chicken and fry for a couple of minutes.
  8. Add the bell pepper and stir-fry for a minute. Add the rest of the veggies after that.
  9. Pour in the cooked noodles and season with soy sauce.
  10. Add black pepper to taste.
  11. Stir and serve immediately. 

What is Chop Suey?

Chop Suey is a dish that comes from American-Chinese cuisine, but it is prepared throughout the world, though it may be called otherwise.

What we know as the original recipe contains bean sprouts, celery, meat, and sauce. It can be prepared with a base of deep-fried noodles, like Chow Mein, but it can also include rice instead.

The main difference between the two lies in the fact that in Chow Mein recipe the noodles are added to the cooked veggies and meat, while in Chop Suey, noodles or rice are used as the base with the sauces and other ingredients being poured over them. 

Related: Learn To Find The Best Japanese Rice Cooker With Barbara

Cooking style of Chop Suey

The essential thing to know about preparing Chop Suey (when cooking with noodles) is that the noodles cannot be steamed as with Chow Mein. They have to be deep-fried.

I often prepare this meal with rice, because this is a much healthier version. You can take it up a notch and serve it with brown rice.

Chop Suey recipe

The Indonesian variant of this meal consists of vegetables, and in other parts of the world, different sauces and ingredients are added to this dish.

I’ll share the standard American-Chinese recipe with you. Again, the ingredients are something you will determine according to your taste and the number of portions.

Ingredients

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    Pork, beef, chicken or shrimp (you can ditch the meat completely if you are preparing a vegetarian dish)
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    Noodles/rice (deep-fried)
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    Cabbage
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    Bean sprouts
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    Celery
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    Broccoli
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    Onion
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    Carrots
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    Snow peas
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    Vegetable oil
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    Soy sauce
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    Oyster sauce (if you are cooking non-vegetarian variant)
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    Ketchup
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    Cornstarch
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    Rice wine

Preparation

  1. Mix ketchup, sugar, water, cornstarch, rice wine and soy sauce to make a Chop Suey sauce.
  2. Heat oil in a wok add onion and saute until they get a nice yellowish color.
  3. Add meat or seafood and stir-fry for up to five minutes.
  4. Add bean sprouts, celery, carrot, and cabbage, and saute for about four minutes.
  5. Add the sauce. Mix it in well and cook for another couple of minutes.
  6. Serve over rice or noodles.

The main differences between Chow Mein and Chop Suey

So, to sum it all up, here are the main differences between the two dishes you should know about:

  • Compared to Chop Suey, Chow Mein is low in fat and calories, especially if you opt for steamed Chow Mein.
  • In Chow Mein, the noodles are mixed up with the remaining ingredients, while in Chop Suey, the mixture of sauce, meat, and veggies is served over noodles or rice.
  • There is no option of preparing steamed Chop Suey. The rice or the noodles has to be deep-fried.
  • Both of these dishes can be prepared as vegetarian. In Chow Mein, chicken and seafood are the most frequently chosen types of meat, while in Chop Suey, there is no most preferred choice. 

Final word

Both Chow Mein and Chop Suey are incredibly delicious Asian meals, but it is important to know that they are definitely not the same.

I hope that after this article you can finally make a clear difference between the two.

Enjoy! 🙂

Barbara Whitney
 

For the last 20 years, I’ve been cooking, preparing, researching, and gathering recipes, tools, and knowledge about food and the way we prepare it. Raising two lively boys and spoiling one great husband later, it’s safe to say that I’ve optimized my kitchen to deliver the best possible meal, no matter the occasion.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 2 comments
carmela

Thank you Barbara. I now enjoy cooking..

Reply
    Barbara Whitney

    My pleasure, Carmela!

    Reply

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