By Jennifer 8. Lee | June 1, 2009
I’m putting a digital copy of Renqiu Yu’s â€œChop Suey: From Chinese Food to Chinese American Foodâ€ [pdf] in Chinese America: History and Perspectives (1987) online for people who need it. Permission from the Chinese Historical Society of America in San Francisco and Ren himself.
I noticed it cited in a bunch of places, but it’s pretty hard to get a copy of, since the journal has not been digitized. This copy comes to me courtesy of Trey McArver. I noticed it was cited on Wikipedia unseen, which surprised me.
This provides one of the most comprehensive accounts of the early history of chop suey in America. Mr. Yu, whom I interviewed for my book, spent months and months flipping through microfiche looking for early mentions of chop suey.
Basically, there is a dish called chow chop suey, which is giblets and entrails, that is traditionally Chinese. Along the way, chop suey became veggies and “safer” meats, like chicken, meat and pork.
Luckily, my research was accelerated with Proquest’s historical newspapers.
Proquest led me to this New York Times article from 1904, has an interesting account of how chop suey may have been inveented main stream.Â A Chinese man named Lem Sen claimed to have invented it at the request of an American restaurant owner who wanted some “weird dish that would pass as Chinese and gratify the public craze” at the time for things Chinese.
It is, as I’d like to believe, one of the earlier instances of celebrity marketing at the time.
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