New Yorkers have been ordering chop suey since the turn of the century, when Chinese restaurants opened in large numbers and Chinese food became a trendy cuisine.
That’s when New York welcomed an official visit by Chinese premier Li Hongzhang.
Supposedly the personal chefs he brought with him from China created chop suey to win over American palates at formal dinners.
Another theory has it that chop suey is a bastardization of a Cantonese dish, and it became popular in the U.S. when Chinatowns sprang up in cities.
Whatever the story is, one thing’s for sure: It was always an inexpensive dish, as this 1960s menu, from The Rice Bowl Restaurant at 44 Mott Street, shows.