Tuesday, June 15, 2010

American Chop Suey and its namesake

If you were to walk up to a local in cosmopolitan India, and ask for a description of the American Chop suey, this is what you are likely to hear:
A plate of crispy deep-fried noodles topped with a hot, velvety, sweet sour egg drop gravy showcasing its stir fried vegetables, and sometimes chicken.Ok, not so much the egg drop part maybe.
Being an ardent fan of "rasta" Indo Chinese food myself, specifically the ones the ubiquitous Sagars in Bangalore churn out, this was my definition of the dish too, till I set foot on American soil. Given its name and all, I seriously thought in all my naivety, that even if the dish did not have anything to do with the US of A, it would surely be available around here, only to realize otherwise.
The American "greasy" Chinese restaurants here don't seem to have even heard of, let alone carry the A.Chop Suey. And yes, I did try explaining it to them in the hopes of the dish having multiple nomenclature.

The rare Indian restaurant that dots the typical American city, and invariably sees including Gobi Manchurian and Veg. noodles/fried rice on its firangi version of an Indian menu as being worth its while, unfortunately chooses to neglect its less famous country cousin.

In a fit of deep craving for the dish during pregnancy, I did manage to whip up my own version of it to temporarily satisfy my palate. But, nothing.....I shall repeat, nothing comes close to the unhealthy, quick, wok fried version we usually get, back home. Specifically the ones the "Home Delivery Only" Chinese places, that solely depend on tacky florescent pamphlets for their existence usually make.
It took me a while to realize that the "nicer" Japanese places around here do carry a variation of the dish that goes by the name Yaki Sobe. Well at least the fried noodles part makes for a commonality among both dishes.

Interestingly enough, when I Wikied the dish up to check if it is after all uniquely Desi in its origins (another one of our fancy whip-ups masquerading around as Chinese Cuisine),this is what I found.

American Chop Suey (also sometimes known as American Goulash or Macaroni and Beef) is an American pasta dish. The preferred name and recipe varies by region: for example, the name American chop suey is most prevalent in New England. Commercial preparations of this dish are commonly marketed as Macaroni and Beef.

So in short , American Chop Suey is a macaroni and beef dish.
Why am I not surprised.
I beam, yet another addition to our feathered cap of borrowed, morphed, hybridized and patented (in that order) things, bollywood music notwithstanding.
The dish to me now seems like the lust child of Yaki Sobe or some Chinese variation I am unfamiliar with and its Italian-American sugar daddy - The "American" American Chop Suey!
Its ambiguous origins aside, I maintain that, to me, the American Chop Suey is and shall continue to remain a major Indo Chinese favourite and shall be missed dearly. To those that share my opinion here's a quick link to the recipe I followed, from another blog: