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Chow Mein vs Chop Suey [Clash of the Classics]

By: Shivani Choudhary
Updated On: February 15, 2024

From the bustling Chinatowns of bustling cities to the cozy Asian food sections in the supermarkets of America's rural heartland, Chinese-influenced dishes have been feeding America's insatiable appetite for diverse and exciting cuisine for decades. Among them, chow mein and chop suey stand out as two of the most widely recognized and cherished dishes, having firmly established themselves in the American culinary landscape. Yet, choosing between these two delightful dishes can be quite challenging, especially if you are not deeply familiar with their unique qualities, ingredients, and origins.

Hence, it's high time we dive deep into the rewarding arena of "chow mein vs chop suey," shedding light on their differences, similarities, and the unique taste sensations they each bring to the table! As we uncover the secrets that lie behind these enticing dishes, we invite you to savor the journey and possibly even rediscover these long-loved classics in a brand new way!

Also Read: Dumplings vs Potstickers

Chow Mein vs Chop Suey

Chow Mein vs Chop Suey

You might find yourself at a typical Chinese-American restaurant, menu in hand, your eyes darting between Chow Mein and Chop Suey. Perhaps you've savored both of these dishes countless times, yet when asked to distinguish between them you find yourself at a loss. Let's clear the air and take a closer look at these two much-loved offerings!

Beginning with their names, chow mein translates to 'stir-fried noodles,' while chop suey means 'mixed pieces.' This simplistic understanding, although not wholly incorrect, is just a small piece of the entire puzzle. Each dish has unique defining elements, subtle variances in different regions, and intriguing historical contexts, which, when combined, paint a much richer and more complex picture.

Chow Mein

Chow mein is a versatile dish that embraces a wide range of flavors and textures by incorporating succulent meats, crispy vegetables, and deliciously chewy, stir-fried noodles. While there are numerous regional and personal adaptations, the signature characteristic of chow mein is the use of noodles in its preparation, either crisp or soft, depending upon the cooking style.

Chop Suey

Venturing into the world of chop suey, it centers on a hearty and flavorful mixture of meat (or tofu for a vegetarian option), and a rainbow spectrum of vegetables, all blanched to maintain their crunch. Unlike chow mein, chop suey does not have noodles as its central ingredient but is typically served over a bed of rice.

To make the distinctions more visible, let's chart the crucial differences:

Chow MeinChop Suey
Main IngredientsNoodles, vegetables, meat or tofuMixed vegetables, meat or tofu, served over rice
PreparationStir-friedMixed pieces blanched together
OriginChinaArguably America or China
SauceLighter, allows the flavor of ingredients to stand outThicker, binds all components together
ToppingsOften topped with a sprinkle of green onionsUsually nothing added on top

Now, armed with this new understanding, you might find yourself excited to revisit these dishes. Your next order of chow mein or chop suey should be accompanied by a newfound appreciation for their individuality and unique charm.

How Chow Mein and Chop Suey Are Prepared?

In the world of scrumptious food, the process of preparation is often as exciting as the taste itself. Both Chow Mein and Chop Suey include a stir-frying process, but the style and the ingredients differ notably.

Chow Mein, derived from the word "chǎo miàn," meaning "stir-fried noodles" in Mandarin, begins with either soft or crispy noodles as the star of the dish. While soft noodles are stir-fried and then mixed with the remaining ingredients, the crispy variety is usually served beneath a pile of piping hot sautéed ingredients. The list of ingredients often includes a delicious protein - chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp - alongside an array of fresh vegetables such as bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and bean sprouts. All this is tossed and cooked in a savory sauce blend of soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and more.

Chop Suey, on the other hand, is all about the freedom of improvisation. Traditionally, it's a mix of bite-sized pieces of meat, scrambled eggs, and a colorful medley of vegetables like bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, celery, and water chestnuts, all stir-fried together. The ingredients are bathed in a thick, starch-thickened sauce that typically incorporates soy sauce, oyster sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Unlike chow mein, it's typically served with rice, if not occasionally crispy noodles.

Navigating the Vibrant Flavors: The Taste of Chow Mein vs Chop Suey

Navigating the Vibrant Flavors: The Taste of Chow Mein vs Chop Suey

Sinking your teeth into either of these dishes is a flavorful expedition. Yet, the taste adventure you embark upon distinctly differs based on whether you pick Chow Mein or Chop Suey.

What does Chow Mein taste like? The rich flavor of Chow Mein chiefly relies on its glossy, aromatic sauce, and the specific suite of ingredients used. It's a heady mix of savory, sometimes slightly spicy, always deeply satisfying flavor. The taste of the protein blends beautifully with the crunchy freshness of the veggies, while the chewy or crispy noodles pull everything together into a beautifully harmonic bite.

On the flip side, Chop Suey embarks your palate on a more flexible journey. Given its wide latitude for ingredient improvisation, the taste of Chop Suey can significantly shift from one preparation to another. However, its sauce ensures a signature umami backbone, with the starch-thickened texture enveloping each ingredient. Depending upon the chef’s whim, it can be crafted to range anywhere from mildly savory to incredibly flavorful.

Remember, though, both being part of Chinese-American cuisine, neither pungently overpowers your taste buds. Instead, they charm your palate with a harmony of flavors that come together like a melodious symphony. As you chew and savor, delicious discoveries are all part of the fun when it comes to "Chow Mein vs Chop Suey"!

Nutritional Value: Chow Mein vs Chop Suey

Paying attention to what we put into our bodies is vital, and as a die-hard food lover, that also means comparing the nutritional values of my favorite Chinese-American dishes, chow mein and chop suey.

Chow Mein, a stir-fried noodle dish, often includes a healthy mix of vegetables like cabbage, onions, and bean sprouts, carefully stir-fried with protein options like chicken, beef, or shrimp. According to MyFitnessPal, the average serving of chicken chow mein has around 192 calories. That’s an excellent balance of carbs, protein, and vitamins.

In the other corner, we have Chop Suey, a classic stir fry offering a colorful combination of meat (chicken, pork, shrimp) and vegetables (celery, bell peppers, mushrooms, bean sprouts) coated in a thick sauce. Nutritionix lists a typical chop suey serving with chicken as having around 216 calories, packed with protein and a realistic dose of daily vitamins.

While they are both stir-fried dishes filled with hearty vegetables and proteins, chow mein's higher carb content, owing to the noodles, gives chop suey a slight edge in terms of lesser calories. However, both dishes can be part of a well-balanced diet, as long as you keep an eye on the portion sizes.

Amazing Recipes to Try: Chow Mein and Chop Suey at Home

Amazing Recipes to Try: Chow Mein and Chop Suey at Home

Have I got your taste buds dancing? Excellent! Now let's bring these delicious dishes into your kitchen. Touching on my own cooking endeavors, I'm going to share my simplified yet seriously tasty versions of these Chinese-American classics.

Simple-Chic Chow Mein

Cook Time: 20 minutes Servings: 4


  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1 cup sliced cabbage
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  • 4 oz. chow mein noodles
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce


  1. Cook the chow mein noodles as per the instructions on the package. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a wok or frying pan, sauté the garlic and chicken until cooked through.
  3. Add in cabbage, bean sprouts, and scallions, stir-fry until vegetables are tender.
  4. Finally, mix in the chow mein noodles, soy sauce, and oyster sauce. Toss everything together until well combined.
  5. Serve hot, garnished with some chopped spring onions or sesame seeds.

Vibrant & Veggie-Filled Chop Suey

Cook Time: 25 minutes Servings: 4


  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch


  1. In a wok or large frying pan, sauté garlic and chicken until chicken is cooked through.
  2. Add in all vegetables, continue stir frying until they are tender.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together soy sauce, cornstarch, and a little bit of water. Pour this mixture over the stir-fry in the wok.
  4. Allow it to simmer until the sauce thickens. Stir well to make sure everything is coated in the sauce.
  5. Serve your chop suey over some cooked white rice.

All it takes are a few tweaks to create a bit of the Chinese-American experience at home! Whether it's a comforting plate of chow mein or a vibrant dish of chop suey, there's no wrong choice here.

Also Read: Domino’s Hand Tossed vs Pan Pizza

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main difference between Chow Mein and Chop Suey?

The main difference lies in the dish components: chow mein is primarily a noodle dish often served with vegetables and sometimes meat; chop suey is primarily a mixed vegetable dish served with a thick sauce and often served with rice.

Can I use any kind of noodles for Chow Mein?

Traditionally, chow mein is made with thin wheat noodles. However, you can also use other types such as thick egg noodles based on your preference.

What does Chop Suey mean?

'Chop Suey' roughly translates to 'miscellaneous leftovers', echoing its inception as a stir-fried dish incorporating a variety of ingredients.

Which is healthier, Chow Mein or Chop Suey?

Healthiness can vary greatly depending on ingredients used. Generally, chop suey could be deemed healthier due to its generous vegetable content, but it's best to check the particular recipe or restaurant dish.

Do Chow Mein and chop suey originate from China?

While there's some debate about their exact origins, both dishes are largely recognized as part of American-Chinese cuisine, though they draw heavily from actual Chinese culinary traditions.

Can I make vegetarian versions of Chow Mein or Chop Suey?

Absolutely! You can fill both dishes with a variety of vegetables, using tofu or seitan as substitutes for the traditional meat ingredients.

Why does some Chow Mein come with crunchy noodles and others don't?

There are two styles of chow mein – crispy (or Hong Kong style) and soft. The former is characterized by noodles deep-fried until crispy, while the latter involves noodles that are stir-fried and remain soft.

Where can I find authentic Chow Mein and Chop Suey?

Most Chinese or Asian-themed restaurants in the U.S. serve these dishes. For authentic experiences, finding a local restaurant specializing in Chinese-American cuisine would be ideal.


Armed with this knowledge, we're sure that your next decision between ordering or cooking chow mein and chop suey will be an informed one. From their humble origins to their well-deserved status as mainstays of Chinese-American cuisine, both dishes have a rich story to tell. Whether you’re a fan of the crunchy textures and hearty noodles found in chow mein, or the balanced, nutrient-rich grace of chop suey, it's undeniable that both have earned their places in our hearts.

Ultimately, chow mein and chop suey both offer vibrant experiences, a roller-coaster of tastes that are a testament to the excellence of Chinese culinary tradition. No longer will the question of "chow mein vs chop suey" be a puzzling conundrum but instead a chance to broaden your culinary horizons.

Food Lover and Storyteller ????️✨ With a fork in one hand and a pen in the other, Shivani brings her culinary adventures to life through evocative words and tantalizing tastes. Her love for food knows no bounds, and she's on a mission to share the magic of flavors with fellow enthusiasts.
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