Marc Neermann of Norcross, Ga., was looking for a recipe for chop suey like his grandmother made in the 1950s or early 1960s. The main ingredients, as far as he and his mother can recall, were beef and possibly pork, bead molasses, bean sprouts, water chestnuts and soy sauce. It was served over white rice.
Rosalia Case of Ellicott City said that her mother made this type of chop suey during the '50s and '60s and that it was a family favorite for Sunday night dinner. Case thought her recipe might be very similar to what Norcross was searching for. She said her mother's version did not include water chestnuts, but that might have just been a personal preference. She is not sure where her mother got the recipe, but it possibly came off a can of chow mein noodles or bean sprouts. The recipe calls for round steak, but it certainly could be made with pork tenderloin instead or even a combination of the two .
Bead molasses is similar to light molasses in color, texture and sweetness. It is commonly used in Asian dishes to add flavor and color. If you have trouble locating it, you can substitute light molasses or an Asian-style brown sauce. I used a low-sodium soy sauce and also added some water chestnuts for crunch.
In the 1950s and '60s, this type of dish was what passed for Chinese cooking in this country. Though we've come a long way since then, this American-Chinese dish is surprisingly good and simple to make without a lot of fancy or pricey ingredients or time-consuming prep work.
Patty Wolfe of Bend, Ore., said that she grew up in central Indiana and in the early 1960s, her sister-in-law made a breakfast casserole that was quite unusual at the time. As she remembers it, the dish was a bed of white rice that had several indentations filled with single whole eggs. It was then topped with some kind of sauce or soup, and perhaps cheese, and baked. Wolfe said it was "super-delish" and she was hoping someone might be familiar with this dish and be able to share the recipe.
Beef chop suey
Makes 4 servings
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1 pound beef (round steak) cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 cups celery, cut in 1-inch pieces lengths
2 large onions, cut in chunks
1 tablespoon bead molasses
2 cups boiling water or beef stock
1 14-ounce can bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water
White rice, cooked
Chow mein noodles
Heat oil in large skillet. Add beef cubes, salt and pepper and cook until browned. Stir in soy sauce. Remove meat from the pan, set aside.
Add celery, onions, bead molasses and boiling water or beef stock to the pan the meat was browned in. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes. Add the rinsed and drained bean sprouts. Cook 3 minutes, then add set-aside beef cubes.
Mix cornstarch and 1/4 cup water. Add to mixture in pan and cook 5 minutes. Ladle over cooked rice and sprinkle with a generous amount of chow mein noodles on top.