Chop Suey vs Chow Mein: What Is The Difference?

Chop Suey vs Chow Mein

This post will tackle Chop Suey vs Chow Mein, and their main difference.

Chop suey and chow mein are both popular Chinese cuisine. These delicious foods can be found at take out places, various restaurants, and can also be prepared at home.

These two dishes are made with meat and vegetables. But even so, these two are still distinguishable. 

In this article, we will talk about the main difference between chop suey and chow mein. If you want to know what these are, scroll down and continue reading.

Chop Suey vs Chow Mein

Chop Suey

Chop Suey

Chop suey is an American Chinese stir-fried dish made with vegetables, added with meats like chicken, beef, and pork. Special chop suey recipe may also include sea foods like shrimp, boiled quail eggs, and has a starch-thickened sauce. This stir fried vegetables are often served with rice. 

In Chinese Indonesian cuisine, chop suey is called cap cai, which means mixed vegetables. Chop suey has roots in Southern China, but it is still among the most popular Americanized Chinese foods.


According to history, this Chinese dish was invented by Chinese Americans in the US. However, an anthropologist  and scholar of Chinese food named  E.N Anderson, claimed that the dish originated in Taishan, Guangdong. It is called “tsa sui”, which means miscellaneous broken pieces. It is also believed that there is no Chinese cuisine called “tsa sui”.

A Hong Kong doctor named Li Shu-fan also said that Chop Suey existed in Toisan in the 1890s. 

Though the actual origin of Chop Suey isn’t clear, this dish is still prominent in modern cooking, not only in Chinese restaurant, but all over the globe. 

What Does Chop Suey Consist Of?

Chop suey, also referred to as a vegetable dish,  is normally made with meat, fresh vegetables, and sometimes an egg. But what exactly are the ingredients in making a chop suey? Here it goes:

  • meat (pork, chicken, beef, shrimp)
  • cabbage
  • carrots
  • bean sprouts
  • celery
  • onions 
  • broccoli

For the sauce:

  • soy sauce
  • oyster sauce
  • sesame oil
  • Shaoxing wine
  • white pepper
  • cornstarch
  • water

How To Prepare Chop Suey

When cooking chop suey, the first thing to do is to prepare the sauce. This may vary depending on your cooking styles. Here’s what to:

  1. 1. Mix all ingredients for chop suey sauce.

  2. 2. Heat oil in a wok, add onions, and sautee on a medium heat.

  3. 3. When the onions turn brown, add the bean sprouts, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, and saute for 5 minutes or until cooked.

Mix the vegetables with the chop suey sauce and serve when hot. Eating Chop suey is more delectable when eaten with either noodles or rice. Though it is seldom served with steamed noodles.

When chop suey is mixed with stir-fried noodles, that is when Chow Mien comes into picture. Yes, Chow mein is like a Chop suey with stir-fried noodles. Let’s get to know the Chow Mein dish, its origin, and how it is prepared.

Chow Mein

Chow Mein

Chow mein is an authentic Chinese dish made with stir-fried or boiled noodles, vegetables, meat, and sometimes tofu. The noodles used in Chow mein are made with egg and wheat flour.

This cuisine was introduced by Chinese immigrants in other countries, and became a popular dish in Nepal, India, UK, Mauritius, and US.

This noodle dish is usually served in take outs, and various American Chinese restaurants attempted to change its original recipe to engage western tastes.


Chow mein is the Americanization term for the Chinese word Chaomian, which is pronounced as Chaomin by the Cantonese. It is believed that Chow mein originated in Northern China. This term first emerged in the US in 1906. Chow mein technically means stir-fried noodles or fried noodles in English.

Though Chow mein is called a Chinese cuisine, it was also introduced to the US by Chinese immigrants who arrived from Guangdong provinces n 1849s. 

This stir-fried dish is made with noodles, meat (chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, tofu), and some vegetables like celery and onions. Chow mein is often served at Westernized Chinese restaurants.

In the American market, there are two kinds of Chow Mein available, the steamed chow mein and crispy chow mein.

Steamed chow mein is known for its soft texture while the crispy chow mein (also known as the Hong Kong style) is a bit drier and crisper. The latter also uses fried and flat noodles while the steamed chow mein uses long and rounded noodles.

The crispy version of chow mein can be prepared in a hamburger-style bun, and serve as a chow mein sandwich. While the soft or steamed chow mein is served as a separate dish and is called lo mein.

As mentioned above, Chow mein is somehow similar to chop suey. It is just that the chow mein recipe includes cooking noodles. The cooked noodles are then added to the sauces, meat, and vegetables.

Let us see the main ingredients in making a Chow Mein.

Chow Mein Ingredients:

  • steamed or fried wonton noodles
  • chicken, shrimp, or pork
  • bean sprouts
  • Celery
  • Bok choy
  • broccoli
  • spring onion
  • soy sauce
  • shiitake mushrooms 
  • cornstarch
  • oyster sauce
  • groundnut oil

How To Prepare:

1. Cook the chow mein noodles in boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Coat with some oil to avoid sticking.

2. Season the meat with soy sauce and Chinese five-spice powder. For a better result, dust the meat with cornstarch.

3. Heat up a wok in high heat. Add a small amount of groundnut oil and heat until its boiling hot.  When it’s already smoking a little, add the meat and have it stir-fried for a couple of minutes or until cooked.

4. Then add the bell pepper and stir fry for a minute. After the said time, add the celery, spring onion, bean sprouts and other vegetables. Mix the ingredients well.

Once cooked, you can add the fried noodles and flavor it with a little sesame oil and sesame oil.

The ingredients mentioned are somewhat similar to chop suey. But the way it is cooked makes it a bit different than the latter.

Chow Mein Vs Chop Suey: Nutritional Value

If you are into healthy eating, Chow mein and Chop suey are both healthy and tasty dishes that are worth a try. Here are some of the nutritional values both chow mein and chop suey have.

Compared to chow mein, chop suey is a little fatter and more calorific. A 56g cup of chop suey contains roughly 290 calories.

Chop suey may also contain 12 grams of carbohydrates, 25 grams of protein, and 16 grams of fat.

On the other hand, chow mein is low in calories especially when prepared as a vegetable dish, and has no added meat.

A 56g cup of vegetable chow mein (plainly made of vegetables) contains around 240 calories, 26 grams of carbohydrates (from the rice noodles), and 14 grams of fat.

Chow mein is also a perfect meal choice for those who are on a strict diet. 

So What Really is The Main Difference Between Chow Mein and Chop Suey?

Aside from the ingredients,  the origin of these popular dishes and their authenticity are their main differences. Chop suey is an American Chinese cuisine while chow mein is an authentic, traditional Chinese dish.

Chow mein contains a thin sauce while Chop suey has a thick sauce.

Chow mein is one of the most popular Chinese dishes that is served not only in China, but all over the world. The menu may be changed in western countries, but the traditional recipe remains the same.

Meanwhile, Chop suey may include on hand ingredients, and its menu can change anytime, according to the cook’s preferences. Nevertheless, chow mein has an established recipe compared to chop suey.

Chop suey is typically served with either noodles or rice, while chow mein is always served with crispy noodles or soft noodles. Though there are some who opted to have their chow mein with rice, this rarely happens.

And that covers everything about the main difference between chow mein and chop suey. I hope that this post has helped you one way or another. If you find this information relevant, feel free to share this article.

Thank you for reading!

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