A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 22, 2004
Chop Suey
San Francisco and New York City both have Chinatowns, and both claim "chop suey." New York appears to have the earliest citations for the dish (that was not invented in 1896).


Museum of Chinese in the Americas
Chop Suey
June 22nd, 2004 through October 2004
(...)
Having adapted traditional Chinese recipes to fit the American taste palette, chop suey is said to have originated from the Chinese laborers and miners in the American West or, as another theory proposes, from Chinese Ambassador Li Hung Chang's visit to New York City in 1896, where his personal cook attempted to please the Chinese and American patrons with a dish that used celery, bean sprouts, and a meat sauce. Much like the dish, chop suey houses were equally adapted to blend American and Chinese aesthetics, most noticeably in the eclectic exterior and interior decor.

6 July 1884, Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, pg. 4:
Chop soly is a ragout and may be justly termed the national dish of China. Each cook has his own recipe. The main features of it are pork, bacon, chickens, mushroom, bamboo shoots, onion and pepper.

7 July 1885, Bismarck (ND) Daily Tribune, pg. 1:
DINNER IN CHINESE NEW YORK.
A Peculiar Sort of Hash -- Chop-Sticks a
Failure -- Dessert.
[Brooklyn Union]
(...)
The dinner consisted of a peculiar sort of hash, called "chop-sui." It is made of -- the Lord knows what -- but sliced bamboo, kidneys, celery and spices were certainly used in its composition. The queer mixture, provided the eater does not investigate it too carefully, can be eaten, but an every-day American would certainly not hanker after it a second time.

In eating this mixture the Brooklyn lawyer used the national chop-sticks with the ease and grace of a Mandarin, but the reporter, after several unsuccessful attempts to capture with the ivory sticks a bit of kidney that floated alluringly on the top of his bowl of "chop-sui," gave up the attempt in despair, and finished the meal with knife and fork. The chop-sui was washed down with tea, and it was real tea, not the abomination that goes by that name in American eating-houses.

26 September 1885, Texas Siftings, "CELESTIAL EATING: The Things That John Chinaman Thinks Are Good in New York Restaurants," pg. 3:
There are six Chinese restaurants proper in the Mongolian settlement. Each is famous for some dish or style of cooking.
(...)
Then follow roast duck with pickled carrot, chow chop sue (a ragout of chicken liver, lean pork, bamboo-tip, celery, bean shoots and onion), dried fish, steamed chopped pork macaroni and chicken, an dainty dumplings filled with spiced hashed meats.
(...)
-- Wong Chin Foo, in Chicago News.

25 July 1886, Washington Post, pg. 5:
NEW YORK'S CHINA-TOWN.
A DINNER IN MONG SING WAH'S RESTAURANT.
Not Altogether an Affair of Dogs and Rats - The Joss of the Kitchen - How to Order a Chinese Dinner - Tea in Oriental Style.
Special Correspondence of THE POST.
(...)
"Chow-chop-suey, chop-seow, laonraan, san-sui-goy, no-ma-das," glibly ordered my friend...

Chow-chop suey was the first dish we attacked. It is a toothsome stew, composed of bean sprouts, chicken's gizzards and livers, calfe's tripe, chagou fish, dried and imported from China, pork, chicken and various other ingredients which I was unable to make out. Notwithstanding its mysterious nature, it is very good and has formed the basis of many a good Chinese dinner I have since eaten. Chop seow is perfumed roast pork. The pork is roasted and then hung in the smoke of various aromatic herbs which gives it a most delicious flavor. It is cut into small pieces, as indeed is everything at a Chinese restaurant, that it may be readily handled with chopsticks. No bread is served at a Chinese dinner, but its place is taken by boiled rice, or fan, as it is called in Chinese. A couple of bowls of rice is lanoke-an, the F being dropped when the number is prefixed, and such rice, white, light, snowy; each grain thoroughly cooked yet separate. Fish is delightfully cooked, baked in a sort of brown sauce, and masquerades under the name of sau-sui-goy. The only condiment is seow, a sort of Celestial cousin to Worcestershire sauce, and, in fact, its probable original. The evolution of Worcestershire sauce was somewhat as follows: Seow was taken from China to India where hot spices were added to tickle the palates and livers of the English East Indians, who relished Chili sauce, army powder and red pepper.There it was known as soy. From the East Indies to England, where it wasstill more spiced and flavored and patriotically called Worcestershire sauce.But the average Chinaman uses but little flavoring in his food, he prefers the natural taste. The whole dinner was washed down with many cups of tung-ia, as tea is called, and small cups of no-ma-deo, of Chinese whisky,which is distilled from rice and poured over figs and prunes, giving it a sweet, fruity flavor, more like a cordial than our notion of whisky. No-ma-deo is served in comical little china teapots, and is a most insidious fluid. You drinks it from little cups holding about a tablespoonful, and it seems so mild and sweet that the intoxicating result comes over your senses like a thunderclap.(...)

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Wednesday, September 22, 2004 • Permalink