You may call this dish chicken chow mein or chicken stir fry; whatever you call it, it's delicious! Chicken Chop Suey is a quick meal that your family will love!
I created this recipe from memories of what my Mom used to make and she always called it chicken chow mein. Up until a few weeks ago, I had no clue that this isn't chicken chow mein, it's chicken chop suey!
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It had been so long since I had my Mom's chicken chow mein, I decided to order it at a local Chinese restaurant. When the server took my order she said, "This chow mein is served over rice and doesn't have noodles in it." Okay, I said. She went even further and said, "Many people order this dish and are confused because there aren't noodles." Okay, I was looking at her with a bewilderment. She left, came back with the food and it was exactly like I remembered it.
Now, I know why she felt the need to clarify the ingredients in the chow mein they served. I wonder, is what Mom called chow mein an Americanized version? Why did we not call it chop suey?
Maybe because in parts of the Northeast United States, chop suey is a completely different dish of pasta (usually elbow macaroni) and ground beef in a tomato based sauce. Hmmm... thoughts to ponder.
I love learning new things about food and always welcome your thoughts and comments!
What is the difference between Chow Mein and Chop Suey?
I always do research before releasing a recipe and when I looked up chicken chow mein, I found it really interesting that chow mein is a noodle dish. I always thought that would be called lo mein.
I have heard the name chop suey before, but always thought it was what I call goulash. Confused yet? So was I.
Whenever there is confusion over what to call a recipe, I like to ask people and that is exactly what I did. I went to Facebook and asked the question, "What would you call this dish?"
The responses were definitely mixed. A lot of people know this dish as Chicken Chow Mein and it's served over rice with crunchy noodles on top. Others called it Chicken Chop Suey and said it had soft or crunchy noodles in the dish.
Between researching on Google and reading Facebook comments, I have concluded that this recipe is closer to a chop suey than it is to chow mein.
Since the words chow mein mean fried noodles, there really isn't any doubt that if you don't include noodles in the dish, it's not chow mein.
What about those crunchy noodles on top? Do they make this recipe Chow Mein? Based on my research, I don't think so. So, why are those thin fried noodles in the can called chow mein noodles? I have more questions than answers, that is for sure!
Chop Suey on the other hand is simply a stir fry in a sauce and served over rice. Yep! I'd say this recipe is definitely a Chicken Chop Suey. How do I break the news to Mom?
What is the Difference between Chow Mein and Lo Mein?
I think we have established that chow mein is a noodle dish, but so is lo mein. What is the difference then?
Of course, I am not an expert on Chinese cuisine and do not pretend to be. I think that is a given, since I thought Chicken Chop Suey was Chicken Chow Mein for 40 plus years.
From what I understand, the difference is in how the noodles are prepared. In chow mein, the noodles are parboiled and then "fried" in the stir fry. Fried, in the US anyway, usually means fried in oil or deep fried. However, in this instance, it means stir fried. So, basically, the noodles are cooked until just soft and then stir fried in a pan with oil and the meat and veggies.
Lo mein is a dish where the noodles are boiled until they are completely done and then tossed with the vegetables and sauce before serving.
At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter what you call something as long as you love it and you are going to love this recipe for Chicken Chop Suey!
Can I Make Chop Suey Vegetarian?
Absolutely! Chop Suey is a stir fry and lends itself to being a great vegetarian meal.
Simply omit the chicken and make a few changes to the sauce.
You can replace the soy sauce with liquid aminos and use a mushroom soy sauce in place of the oyster sauce.
Here is a recipe I found for vegetarian oyster sauce, if you wanted to give that a try.
Replace the chicken stock used to make a cornstarch slurry with a vegetable stock or water.
Can I replace the Chicken with Another Meat or Seafood?
If you wanted to use beef, I would choose a type that, when sliced thin, will be tender in the short cook time. A flank or skirt steak would work fine. The trick is to slice it really thin across the grain.
If you wanted to use shrimp, I would add the raw shrimp at the end after you add the cornstarch slurry because they will cook very quickly.
You can even do a combination of chicken, beef, and shrimp if you like.
What do I Serve with Chicken Chop Suey?
Chicken Chop Suey is usually served over rice for a complete meal, but if you wanted to have an appetizer to serve with it, I have a few recipes that would be perfect!
My first choice would be Homemade Egg Rolls! These egg rolls are so easy to make and they would be a great companion to the Chicken Chop Suey!
They are perfectly crispy and you can simply air fry them!
Or, you could make up a batch of Air Fryer Crab Rangoon if you prefer. Don't worry if you've never made them before and think you can't fold them. I go over everything step-by-step and have a video on an easy way to fold them!
If you make the crab rangoon, don't skip the pineapple sweet and sour sauce! It's so delicious as a dipping sauce for the crab rangoon.
What does Velveting Mean?
You know how the meat in Chinese and other Asian dishes is really soft and tender? That's because it is velveted before cooking.
There are several ways to velvet meat. Sometimes it is done with egg whites, corn starch, and wine. It can also be done by adding baking soda like I do in this recipe.
The process keeps the chicken or beef tender during the cooking process and it really works!
It is important when using baking soda that you don't add more than the recipe calls for AND you don't marinate it too long. 30-60 minutes tops!
I found that out the hard way and my first attempt was a complete disaster because I left the chicken in the baking soda for hours and even after rinsing it well, it was so salty and had a bitter taste.
I also tried to sous vide shrimp one time and used baking soda, but I guess I didn't read the part about rinsing it first. It was inedible!
So, make sure not to marinate too long and rinse that baking soda off. You also want to pat the meat dry before cooking.
How to make Chicken Chop Suey on the Stove
The only changes I would suggest if you want to make this recipe in a Wok or large frying pan is to add the chicken right after sautéing the ginger and garlic.
Then I would add the cabbage, in stages, until it has reduced enough to make room for the veggies.
Once the veggies are done to your liking, add the sauce ingredients and thicken with the cornstarch slurry.
Simmer until thick. Serve & Enjoy!
How to Make Chicken Chop Suey in the Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot
This is my prefered way simply because of the deep pot and all the veggies fit at once. You do give up some browning, but the trade off is worth it to me.
The first step with most recipes is to prep everything ahead of time. I find it even more important to prep when making stir fry because once things get going, they go fast and being ready is key.
Velvet the Chicken
The chicken needs to sit in the baking soda for 30 minutes, so doing this first will be perfect timing.
You want to thinly slice the chicken into strips. I do this by slicing diagonal across the chicken breast. It is easier if you cut the breast in half, especially if it is a large one.
Here is a video that shows me slicing the chicken.
Freezing the chicken breast for about an hour before slicing also helps. Be sure to freeze it on parchment or you won't be able to get it off the plate easily.
Cutting up the Vegetables and finishing the prep
When it comes to a stir fry, you can use any vegetables you have on hand, so simply use this as a base and throw in broccoli or snow peas as desired.
If using broccoli, I would make sure to remove all of it when you remove half of the other veggies because it will get too soft if pressure cooked. Same with snow or snap peas. An easy way to do this would be to cook them first for about 5 minutes or so and then remove from the pot and continue on with the recipe.
Ginger & Garlic
I use 2" of fresh ginger in this recipe. You can omit it or add in about ½ tsp of dried ginger if you like. I happen to love the flavor it gives the dish and although some people would prefer to remove it before serving, I actually found it quite pleasant to leave in. It added a nice flavor and crunch.
The easiest way to peel ginger is with a spoon. Simply take the rounded end of the spoon and scrape away the peel. The spoon will also take off any of the protrusions from the ginger root.
Once peeled, slice thin.
Remove the paper from the garlic cloves and slice thin.
You want to have large chunks of cabbage and onions and thick slices of the celery and carrots so they do not get too soft during the cooking time.
For the onion, I cut the onion in half and cut off each end. Then cut into large chunks.
I use 5 stalks of celery and include the leafy green part, but that is optional, of course. I slice the celery on the diagonal in thick cuts about ½-¾" thick.
I use between 2-3 carrots depending on their size and make diagonal cuts about ½-¾" thick. I always peel my carrots, but that is a personal preference.
Cut the end off of the napa cabbage and depending on the size, you will use ¼-½ head of cabbage. Of course, you can use as little or as much as like.
If using more cabbage, you will want to cook it in stages because the pot only holds about 8-10 cups of cut up cabbage.
I then make large cuts through the cabbage keeping the pieces quite large, about 3" or so. I do use the white stalk as well and find it really gives a nice texture to the chop suey.
The Remaining Prep Work
Drain the water chestnuts and the canned bean sprouts if using. If you are lucky enough to find fresh bean sprouts, I would definitely use them instead. You will need about 2-3 cups and you would add them at the same time the recipe calls for adding the canned beans sprouts.
Place the drained water chestnuts and bean sprouts in a bowl until you are ready to add them.
Rinse the rice really well under cold water until the water runs clear. Place the rice into a 6" Fat Daddio Pan or equivalent. Keep in mind that pan materials do affect cooking time, so if you are using a dark pan or a thinner pan, you might want to reduce your natural release time by 1-2 minutes.
Leave the rice in the pan with adding the water until you are ready to pressure cook.
Let's Get Cooking!
Turn the Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot on high sear sauté and add in the 2 Tablespoons of sesame oil. When the oil is hot, add in the ginger and garlic and sauté for about 2 minutes. Don't let the garlic burn.
Once the garlic and ginger has become fragrant and started to brown, add in the carrots, celery, and onion and toss around in the pot.
Next add in the cabbage and continue to sauté on high, stirring occassionally, until the volume in the pot has reduced by half.
Remove half of the vegetables from the pot and place them in a bowl. This is to preserve the crisp texture of the vegetables. If you prefer very soft vegetables, leave them all in and continue on with the recipe.
Sauté the Chicken
The chicken should be done marinating by now and it's time to sauté it. First, make sure to rinse the chicken really well under cold running water to remove any excess baking soda. If you don't, your dish will be very salty and a little bitter.
After rinsing, pat the chicken dry a bit with paper towels. Keep the Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot on high sear/sauté and add in the chicken. Make sure to use tongs to toss the chicken around and make sure strips are not stuck together.
The chicken doesn't have to cook very long; maybe 2 minutes -- it will finish cooking during pressure cooking.
Making the Sauce
Add the Mirin wine, soy sauce, and oyster sauce to the inner pot and stir to combine with the vegetables and chicken.
Both Mirin and oyster sauce is easily found in local grocery stores. I found both at Walmart. Now, the Mirin I found is simply a cooking seasoning and it won't have the same flavor as a wine with more alcohol, but it did the trick.
You can also use a dry sherry and although I have not seen this used as a substitute when I Googled it. I tasted the Miran cooking seasoning that I bought and it tasted similar to a sweet port wine to me.
If you wanted to add a little spicy to your chicken chop suey, add in some dried chili peppers or some chili garlic sauce.
Reserve the chicken stock and the cornstarch for after the PC time.
Place the rack in the high position in the Ninja Foodi. If you are using your Instant Pot, try using the trivet. If you have the IPDC, I really recommend getting the reversible rack that comes with the Ninja Foodi. It's is wonderful for layering foods.
Add 1 cup of water to the rice and place on top of the rack, uncovered.
Put the pressure lid on and set the pressure for high and the time for ZERO minutes. Everything will cook in the time it takes to come to pressure and during the natural release.
You do not need any additional liquid, the cabbage releases enough to bring the pot under pressure.
After the pressure is built, the natural release will begin immediately. Let the timer count up for 10 minutes and release any remaining pressure. Remove the lid and remove the pan with the rice.
I like to fluff my rice with a fork, and then cover with a silicone lid until ready to serve.
Once the rack has been removed, add the partially cooked vegetables, the water chestnuts, and the bean sprouts into the pot.
Turn the sear/sauté on high and stir the ingredients. Mix the cornstarch with the chicken stock and stir until there aren't any lumps of cornstarch.
Pour into the pot and bring to a boil which will thicken the sauce. Reduce the heat to low until you are ready to serve. If not serving right away, turn on the keep warm function.
Serve & Enjoy!
Chicken Chop Suey
To Velvet the Chicken
- 2 lbs chicken breasts
- 2 tsps baking soda
Stir Fry Vegetables
- 2 inches fresh ginger
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 Tbsp sesame oil
- 3 carrots
- 5 stalks celery
- 2 Vidalia onions
- 8 cups napa cabbage
Stir Fry Sauce
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp oyster sauce
- 2 Tbsp Mirin
- ¼ cup chicken stock
- 2 Tbsp corn starch
- 14 ounce bean sprouts, drained or 2-3 cups of fresh bean sprouts
- 8 ounces water chestnuts drained
- 1 cup jasmine rice
- 1 cup water
- 5 ounces crispy chow mein noodles
- Slice the chicken into thin strips, about ⅛-¼" thick and place in a plastic bag. Add 2 tsp of baking soda and mix around until the chicken is coated. Set aside for 30 minutes. Rinse well and pat dry before adding to the stir fry.
- Peel and slice the ginger into thin slices about ⅛" thick. Peel and slice the garlic about ⅛" thick. Slice the celery, including the leafy parts, into thick slices about ½-¾" thick. Slice the carrots about ½-¾" thick. I slice my celery and carrots on the diagonal, but you don't have to. Chop the onions into large pieces. Chop the napa cabbage into large pieces, including the white stalk.
- Drain the bean sprouts and water chestnuts. Rinse the rice until the water runs clear and place the rice into a 6" Fat Daddio Pan.
- Add 2 Tablespoons of sesame oil to the inner pot and turn on high sear/sauté. When heated, add the ginger and the garlic. Sauté for 2-3 minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic, reduce the heat if needed.
- Add in the cut up celery, onions, and carrots to the inner pot and sauté on high for about 5 minutes. Add in the chopped cabbage and sauté on high for another 5 minutes or until the cabbage has reduced. Toss around the vegetables during the sauté time. The inner pot will be pretty full when you start, so when the volume reduced by half, you have sautéd long enough.
- Remove half of the vegetables from the pot and add the sliced chicken (make sure you rinsed and pat it dry). Sauté for about 3-5 minutes and make sure to break up the chicken by stirring or tossing with tongs.
- Add in the Mirin wine, soy sauce, oyster sauce and stir. Keep the heat on high.
- Add 1 cup of water to the rice in the 6" pan. Place the rack in the high position and place the pan on top of the rack.
- Put the pressure lid on and turn the valve to seal. Pressure cook on high for ZERO minutes. Natural release for 10 minutes.
- Remove the lid and the rice. Fluff with a fork and cover to retain heat until serving. Remove the rack.
- Add the partially cooked vegetables into the pot along with the drained bean sprouts and water chestnuts.
- Mix the chicken stock with the cornstarch until there are not any clumps of cornstarch. Pour the mixture into the inner pot and heat on high until it boils, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened.
- Serve over rice and top with crispy noodles. Enjoy!
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Seeing the need for easy, delicious, and high quality recipes, she is focusing all of her efforts creating recipes specifically for the Ninja Foodi. Her recipes are easy for the home cook to follow and provide step-by-step instructions.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can.