“Grandma calls our family ‘chop suey’, which means ‘all mixed up’ in pidgin. I like it that way. So does Grandma. ‘More spice,’ she says.”
I loved this line from the children’s book Dumpling Soup. I think it perfectly captures the spirit of most families. A mixed up mashed up combination of personalities, experiences, skills, and needs. I think it is easy for families to have tension because of their difference, but if we focused on celebrating our difference, how much more awesome would our familial relationships be? I immediately looked up chop suey recipes with the fantasy of creating some mushy sentimental memories for my family.
In my fantasy I’ll make this dish and everyone will love it. While serving, I’ll recite the line above and tell the girls and David how much I love our mixed up family, and they will think this is just such a sweet sentiment that they will forever associate our family with the delightful dish of chop suey and feel all the warm fuzzies every time we have it for dinner. It will become a family staple and we’ll serve it at family celebrations, including the wedding rehearsal dinners to come. We’ll share quirky anecdotes about our family while welcome a whole new family into our lives.
Isn’t that just so perfect and sweet?
I looked to the Internet for recipes and origins. I learned that chop Suey was probably created in America and was a thing of necessity. Simply a way to use up all the extras so as not to waste food. Chop Suey literally translates to “assorted pieces” and that is exactly what it is. Most recipes I found were a mix of meat and vegetables served over rice. I had planned to serve this with two other meat dishes so I wanted a vegetable side dish. I’m calling this vegetable chop Suey, but you could also call it stir fried vegetables, or cap cai as mixed vegetables are called in Indonesian cuisine.
Prep all the vegetables before you begin cooking because this really comes together quickly and you won’t have time to stop and chop. We begin with garlic and ginger in cold oil. Yes, cold oil. This way, the oil becomes infused with garlic and ginger to impart tons of flavor to the vegetables. You can whisk a little corn or arrowroot starch into the cooking liquid at the end of cooking to make a sauce, but it isn’t necessary. Serve with rice, noodles, chicken, or just about anything you’d like. Oh and be sure to regal your family with sentimentalities while they eat this vegetable chop suey so as to force those positive fuzzy memories into their heads.
- 1 tablespoon peanut or safflower oil
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 5 grams (1 tablespoon) minced fresh ginger
- 5-6 small carrots, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 8 ounces bok choy
- 1 14.5-ounce can baby corn, chopped
- 1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, chopped
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- sesame seeds, for garnish
- Place the oil, garlic, and ginger in a large saute pan or wok. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
- Turn the heat to medium-high, add the carrots and bell peppers, and cook, stirring constantly for 3 minutes.
- Add the bok choy, baby corn, and water chestnuts, and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Add the soy sauce, water, and sesame oil, and stir to combine. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until all the veggies are soft, about 3 minutes.
- Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with sesame seeds.