Chow Mein VS Chop Suey

Chow Mein VS Chop Suey
Did you know?

Research indicates that Chinese cuisine is by far one of the most popular cuisines in the world today. In fact, it is mostly among the top 10 cuisines loved by all.

But why?

The influx of the Chinese into other countries have greatly influenced their cultural cuisine fame. In addition, their entrepreneurial spirit and great taste have gotten them to open closed doors. Interestingly, the Chinese don’t cook a meal for the sake of it, they strive to make it taste great.

The people have worked so hard to make sure people feel their presence in literary every country in the world. In fact, I don’t know of any stable country that can claim to not have a Chinese restaurant on board.

This makes the very curious individuals want to sample their common dishes like chop suey and Chow Mein. It is very easy to confuse the 2 dishes since the preparation is almost the same but the ingredients differ.


What is Chop Suey

Eight Treasures

This is a dish that doesn’t have a strict definition mainly because its name doesn’t refer to any recipe rather a collection of related meals.

You can best understand it when we say that it is a combination of stir-fried meat, vegetable, seafood and gravy that is served with rice.  You can also serve it with noodles as some people prefer it.

What is Chow Mein

hong kong style chow mein

This is a stir-fried dish of noodles, meat, vegetables and seafood and the sauce used in the making process is usually soy sauce without thickening. 

For your information, Chow Mein is an authentic Chinese dish. Unlike chop Suey its origin is clear and that is, it was first made in China.

The major differences between Chop Suey and Chow Mein

The origin of each dish

Both Chop Suey and Chow Mein sound Chinese right? This is because they both have some root in China but a keen individual will note the difference. China is a large country with different parts having different cultural cuisines:

Chop Suey

Research experts have pointed out that it came from Southern China where the inhabitants are mostly American-Chinese. Some other people note that it was invented in New York City.

Where the then ambassador LI Hung Chang’s chefs decided to try something that would combine the cultural flavours of both the American and Chinese.  

This happened in 1896. Other people also link its origin to a Japanese chef. As you can see its origin is not very clear but it is known to be a stir-fry of leftover vegetable and rice.

Chow Mein

Its origin is clear as compared to the Chop Suey and is amongst the top signatures of Chinese cuisines. The people of Taishan which is a city in pearl river delta and southwest of Jiangmen are the inventors of Chow Mein.  

The major ingredient is noodles because noodles are the staple food in most parts of China. Today, people have incorporated other ingredients. This is to satisfy the difference in taste buds of people from different areas of the world.

Cooking Chop Suey

There are very many recipes available but we picked the simplest one available. You can diversify it if you so wish. You will have noted that the chop suey is more common. This is because of its ease of preparation.

Ingredients needed

  • rice
  • Cabbage, celery, carrot, broccoli, mushroom, snow beans and other preferred vegetables
  • Onions and garlic
  • Pork/beef/chicken/shrimp
  • Soy and oyster sauce
  • Chicken or shrimp Broth


Fry your meat till nicely cooked in a sauce pan and set aside.

On your wok, place some oil and sauté the garlic and onions.

Add the vegetables and stir-fry for about 3 minutes as you take caution not to burn it.

Add in the seasoned meat and allow to cook for some time.

Pour in the soy and oyster sauce and let it cook.

Add the broth and season to taste then cover and let it cook for a few minutes.

You can add corn-starch to thicken the stew further.

Serve your chop suey over steamed or fried rice.

Want the detailed recipe?

Check my recipe Eight Treasures Pan Fry.

Cooking Chow Mein

This being an authentic Chinese cuisine make is more complex to prepare but we are going to take the easiest route.


  • Noodles
  • Chicken broth
  • Chicken/pork/shrimp
  • Cooking oil
  • Cabbages, snow peas, carrots,
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Soy sauce


Cook your noodles and drain the excess water.

In your wok place some amount of oil and let it heat up. Place the meat you must cook while stirring and then set aside.

Then using the wok again sauté the onions and garlic. Then add the vegetables you have to the mixture and stir-fry for about 3 minutes.

Add the noodles and sauces and let it cook for about 2 minutes and add the chicken to the mixture.

Allow to soften for a few minutes and there you have your basic Chow Mein recipe.

Serve it hot.

Note, this is a very simple recipe.

Want the detailed recipe?

Check my recipe Hong Kong Style Chow Mein.

The main difference in preparation

It’s easy to note that, with the Chop Suey you only serve the sauce over the rice or noodles while the Chow Mein requires that you add the noodles to the ingredients as you are preparing the dish.

As you can see, the Suey needs corn-starch for the thickening of the sauce while the Mein only have a little sauce made from soy sauce and it is not normally thick.

The very first documented inventions

These first inventions indicate that the chow suey was served with rice and had ingredients like liver, gizzard, bamboo buds, beans sprout and mushroom. If one had leftover meats and vegetables they would have made a good dish.

For the Chow Mein, the original noodles used were egg noodles and there were two options of making the dish with the first one being the steamed method that is softer and has its vegetables and soy sauce used as toppings.

The other Hong Kong style is a crispier version. The aim is to make it crispy and dry with a thick brown sauce used as topping.

Differences in service

You can’t make a clear cut but the service depends on where you are eating the dish from. Traditionally Chow Suey was served over rice but the modern cook may decide to serve it over noodles.

The Chow Mein, on the other hand, has its noodles already in the dish so you only need to serve it as so. It’s not common to hear of Chow Mein served with rice.

Nutritional value information

It is not easy to have a clear-cut as to facts of nutrition information as this depends on the amount of serving you had and the mode of preparation.

However, a rough estimate indicates that a 112grams serving of Chow Mein has 480 calories where the fats are 28 grams, carbohydrates are 52 grams and protein is 8 grams.

For Chop Suey, a serving of 112 grams contains 564 calories, the fat is 32 grams and the protein is 46 grams. You experience the difference because of the use of rice as carbs but when you use noodles everything alteration occurs.

The versatility of the dish

From the above descriptions, you can tell which of the meal is versatile right?

You see, the first Chop Suey was derived from leftovers and vegetables. But today the chef gets to choose which ingredients to use in their meal. The only constant ingredient here is rice and even that, you can replace with noodles.

The Chow Mein however, the ingredients have not changed. The same way one could either steam or crisp fry it is the same way its cooked today.

Just a heads up:

It’s very hard to seclude and say this dish is better than the other. The preference depends on the person eating it. But I do know one thing, these are easy to make dishes and can help you clear the vegetables you have in the fridge instead of letting them get stale.

You will remember these dishes because of their flexibility and balance in the ingredients of preparation. In addition, while most people think that both dishes are common globally, the truth is that the Chow Mein is the common one while Chop Suey is famous in America and parts of China.

The Chop Suey’s spicy nature makes it more suited for America’s environment since the Chinese don’t fancy a lot of spices and large amounts of meat found in the suey. This is not to say that Chow Mein is not spicy, it is although, there’s only a little spice used.


I am sure you must be hungry after reading about this sumptuous meal comparison because I know I was too. As you can see the ingredients used in their preparations are the simple day to day ingredients so, why not get down to work and make yourself a plate of this delicacies. You might even come up with a better version at home.

If you have gone out and are looking to try this meal its advisable to visit the best Chinese restaurant of your country to get your palate satisfaction.

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