Sunday, February 6, 2011

Weekend Cooking #1 - Wartime Chop Suey

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Since my blog is focused on books about World War II, I thought it would be fun to look at some recipes from that time, when rationing was in full swing.  It is also Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rabbit, so my first contribution to Weekend Cooking is two recipes for Chop Suey. 

Pork Chop Suey
Serves 4

2 tbsp vegetable oil
½ lb. boned pork, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 c. thinly sliced celery
1 c. thinly sliced green bell pepper
1 c. sliced fresh mushrooms
1 c. thinly sliced onions
2 c. water
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp cornstarch
3 c. hot cooked rice
Canned fried noodles, optional

1- Heat oil in a 5 quart Dutch oven. Add pork and sauté over medium heat until lightly browned on all sides. Stir in celery, bell peppers, mushrooms, and onion; sauté stirring constantly until vegetables are lightly browned.

2- Add 1 ¾ cups of the water and bring mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook 15 minutes. Combine remaining ¼ cup water, the soy sauce and cornstarch. Stir into port mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened.
3- Serve chop suey over rice. Top with fried noodles, if desired.

Source: Grandma’s Wartime Kitchen: World War II and the Way We Cooked by Joanne Lamb Hayes.

Variation: Heart Chop Suey
Serves 5-6

1 veal or 2 pork or lamb hearts (hearts weren’t rationed)
½ tsp salt
¼ c flour
¼ c dripping
1 c thinly sliced onion
1 c diced celery
1 c canned tomatoes
1 bouillon cube
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 cup shredded cabbage
¼ lb mushrooms, sliced
1 c bean sprouts, fresh or canned
3 c cooked rice

1- Wash hearts well, cover with water, add salt and simmer till tender, about 2 hours. Drain, reserve broth and shred hearts.
2- Dredge meat in flour and brown in drippings with onions and celery.
3- Add tomatoes and bouillon cube, which has been dissolved in 1 cup of reserved broth, and soy sauce and simmer for 15 minutes.
4- Add cabbage, mushrooms and bean sprouts and cook five minutes longer.
5- Serve on hot rice.

Source: The New York Times, January 8, 1945.

I don’t eat organ meat, but this works well with cubed beef and even cubed chicken They aren’t very authentic Chinese recipes, but did remind me of junior high when I occasionally had to buy my lunch. And my daughter said the same thing.


  1. What a cool post. I don't see myself eating pigs' hearts anytime soon, but people used whatever they could get during the war. Love these wartime recipes.

  2. What fun recipes! I didn't know that hearts' weren't rationed. In some ways they seem like modern healthy recipes that turn to Asian influences to find ways to minimize the meat while maximizing the flavor.

  3. I like to read these old WW II recipes too. They are one more thing that gives insight into that period of history. I have a bunch of knitting patterns I feel the same way about. I love popular culture in history.