"American chop suey” usually contains ground beef, macaroni, and tomato sauce and is very different from “Chinese chop suey.” The dish is often called “goulash” in many parts of the United States.
The “American chop suey” recipe was popular in the 1900s, when Chinese “chop suey” was becoming widely popular. It is not known who first provided the name. “American chop suey” is popular in New England, but the early citations do not indicate that it was originally a regional dish.
Wikipedia: American Chop Suey
American Chop Suey (also American Goulash, Chili-Macaroni, Chili-Mac, Mac ‘n Beef, Macaroni and Beef, or simply Macaroni) is an American pasta dish. The preferred name and recipe varies by region, for example, the name American chop suey is most prevalent in New England. Commercial preparations of this dish are commonly marketed as Macaroni and Beef.
Classic American chop suey consists of elbow macaroni and bits of cooked ground beef with sautéed onions and green peppers in a thick tomato-based sauce. Though this decidedly American comfort food is clearly influenced by Italian-American cuisine, it draws comparisons to chop suey or goulash because it is a thickened hodgepodge of meat and vegetables.
The recipe is quite adaptable to taste and available ingredients. Elbow macaroni can be substituted with any pasta of similar size, such as ziti, shells, or wagon wheels. The onions or green peppers may be omitted. While some recipes call for a smooth prepared tomato sauce, some cooks prefer to add crushed or diced tomatoes along with tomato paste for a tastier, chunkier dish. Black pepper, Italian herbs and Worcestershire sauce are commonly used in preparation.
American chop suey is served on a plate or in a bowl, with grated Parmesan cheese and/or Worcestershire sauce as condiments, often accompanied by bread.
Incidentally, chop suey itself is an American invented dish that is not usually served in mainland China.
American chop suey
Has nothing to do with Chinese food (then again, only in Boston do Chinese restaurants serve French rolls): Macaroni with hamburg, a little tomato sauce and a bit of onion and green pepper.
What is American Chop Suey?
Years ago a common offering in many small local restaurants in the Boston area was a dish called “American Chop Suey.” As I recall it contained ground beef, elbow macaroni, celery, onions, tomatoes, and occasionally green peppers. I have been unable to find any recipes and my trial-and-error attempts have been less than successful — something seems to be missing. Do you have any suggestions?
Ignoring the obvious question of why you want to find the recipe, we’ll get right to the heart of the matter. American Chop Suey is indeed a combination of (over)cooked elbow macaroni, ground beef, and tomatoes. The haute-cuisine versions include any of the following: onions, celery, green pepper, garlic, garlic salt, paprika, and shredded cheese. Of the dozens of recipes we’ve scanned, the tomato can come in many forms: diced, crushed, diced and paste in combination, bottled spaghetti sauce, condensed cream of tomato soup, even V8 Juice.
(And we’re just teasing, there are those on the Ochef staff who occasionally serve American Chop Suey at home — as plain as plain can be, with just onion, beef, macaroni, canned crushed tomato, salt and pepper. It doesn’t need anything else, they say.)
What we’d really like to know is where the name came from.
AMERICAN CHOP SUEY
1 lb. hamburger
1 med. onion
6 stalks celery, sliced sm.
6 cloves garlic
1 lg. can tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
12 oz. pkg. macaroni
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook hamburger, onion and garlic together until done. Cook celery until tender, 15-20 minutes. Cook macaroni for 15 minutes. For lower fat content, drain hamburger mixture. Combine all ingredients and let sit for 15-20 minutes before serving. Serve with garlic bread.
25 April 1904, Toronto Star, pg. 3, col. 6:
LUN HONG SUEY, 190 York street—Chop suey, China chop suey, American chop suey, Li (? Illegible--ed.) Hang Chong’s chop suey; noodles in any style; fried noodles.
23 May 1908, Washington (DC) Post, magazine, pg. 5, col. 5:
Chop Suey of Beef—Break into a kettle half a package of spaghetti, cover with salt water and boil. When almost tender add half a can of tomatoes. Put butter in frying pan and fry in it three large onions, sliced, till brown. Add two pounds of beef run through the machine. When all is nicely browned add the spaghetti and tomatoes, stir, boil for a few minutes and serve hot.
20 March 1909, Washington (DC) Times, pg. 7, col. 5:
Beef Chop Suey.
Take three large fresh tomatoes or two cups canned tomatoes, one small onion chopped fine, salt, pepper, and butter to taste. bring to boil, then add one cup of spaghetti (cooked), one cup of chopped beef or any cooked meat. Let it boil a few moments and serve immediately on toast.
KATHERINE V. BLAKE,
814 7th St. N. E.
24 February 1910, Oelwein (Iowa) Daily Register, pg. 2, col. 6:
Beef Chop Suey.
Grind 2 1/2 pounds of beef in a food chopper and enough onions to season it. Add three-quarters of a can of tomatoes and a little finely chopped suet. Mix all up in a baking dish. Then add one-quarter of a package of boiled macaroni. Put in a granite pan and bake in a quick oven 45 minutes.
22 April 1910, Duluth (MN) News Tribune, pg. 4:
Beef Chop Suey.
Two and one-half pounds Hamburger steak, two small onions (minced), three-fourths quarts tomatoes, one tablespoonful chopped suet, and one-fourth pound of macaroni (cooked). Mix, then bake in quick oven forty-five minutes.
26 August 1910, Alton (IL) Evening Telegraph, “Chop Suey and How to Make It,” pg. 4, col. 5:
Chop suey is the fanciful name for a hash. The expensive Chinese dish with chicken, mushrooms, etc., is the high water mark of the delicacy. The American chop suey is a substantial dish to be served at luncheon.
Place in a spider a lump of butter, size of a walnut; in this, when hot, brown one and one-half pounds of Hamburg steak; heat a can of tomatoes, fry four medium-sized onions, and boil two cups of macaroni or spaghetti, seasoning each article well; drain macaroni and add it, with the onions and tomatoes, to the meat, and simmer five minutes. No side dishes are needed if this is made for lunch, ad it makes a palatable, substantial lunch for six or seven people.
2 September 1910, Stevens Point (WI) Daily Journal, pg. 2, col. 7:
German Chop Suey.
Two pounds of hamburger, fry a nice brown, three onions, one-half box of noodles, one small bunch of celery chopped up in small pieces, one can tomatoes, salt and pepper; boil one hour.
31 October 1912, The Homestead (Des Moines, Iowa), pg. 25, cols. 2-4:
American Chop Suey.—Two pounds of chopped beef, a five-cent package of macaroni, one cupful of sliced onion, one cupful of strained tomatoes of half a can of tomato soup, one spoonful of lard and salt and pepper to taste. Melt the lard in an iron pan or kettle, put the sliced onions into it and brown them. Then add the meat and spread out flat, cover a few minutes until it is seared, turn and stir until the contents of the pan are well browned; salt it. Break the macaroni and cook in boiling water until tender; drain and place in the pan with the meat and onions; pour the tomato over all. Add boiling water from time to time to keep it moist and simmer for two hours. More onions may be added if liked and rice may take the place of macaroni.
19 June 1913, Indianapolis (IN) Star, pg. 9, col. 4:
AMERICAN CHOP SUEY
One pound of lean ground beef through meat grinder and cooked in butter until all the red is out; one five cent box of macaroni cooked twenty minutes in boiling salt water, one half-pound of cheese grated and one five cent bottle of tomato catsup. Put layers of macaroni, meat and cheese in baking dish, pour over catsup with salt and pepper and a generous amount of butter. Bake twenty minutes in a hot oven. Onion may be added if liked.
MRS. JULIA CHRISTIAN,
A Collection of Selected Recipes
Concord, MA: Henry J. Walcott, Jr., printer
American Chop Suey
1 lb Hamburg steak
1 cup macaroni
1/2 lb pork chop
1 small can tomato soup
Fry an onion in the fat of pork chop, then brown in this the hamburg steak and pork, which has been cut in pieces. Cover bottom of baking dish with sliced raw potatoes, add a cup of boiled macaroni to the meats, mix thoroughly with tomato soup, cover with bread crumbs and bake.
27 March 1914, Christian Science Monitor, pg. 6:
AMERICAN CHOP SUEY
Five cups finely ground uncooked beef, one half cup finely ground suet, one large or two small onions finely ground, two cups macaroni cooked in boiling salted water for 30 minutes, one can prepared tomato soup, salt and pepper. Put beef, suet, onion, salt and pepper into kettle. Just cover with boiling water. Cook slowly one hour, then add macaroni and cook one hour more. A few minutes before serving add one can tomato soup.
Better Meals for Less Money
by Mary Green
New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company
134.—AMERICAN CHOP SUEY
2 tablespoons bacon fat
1 onion finely chopped
3/4 pound flank beef chopped fine
1 can condensed tomato soup
1 cup cooked spaghetti
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Cook onion and beef in fat until brown; add tomato, spaghetti, and seasonings, and simmer ten minutes.
Chowhound - Boston Area: American Chop Suey
I grew up here in Boston, but only encountered the name “American chop suey” in high school - the dish was my favorite school cafeteria lunch. In my family we also called it goulash - I’ve always assumed my grandmother, raised in Buffalo, picked up the name there. Oddly enough, BFP, whose parents were both Texans, alse knew it as goulash.
Allstonian Nov 14, 2007 08:37AM