How to Make Chop Suey

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Despite its Chinese influence, the dish known as chop suey in the States is a distinctly American dish with dozens of urban legends surrounding its origins. Like its muddled past, chop suey is improvisational and fluid by nature -- although an Asian-inspired sauce and an assortment of vegetables always serve as the foundation, chop suey leaves you with plenty of room for experimentation.

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In a bowl, mix an Asian-inspired sauce. A few spoonfuls of soy sauce and oyster sauce combined with about a cup of broth -- typically chicken-flavored -- acts as the base of the sauce. For additional kick, season the sauce with garlic and black pepper, or add a spoonful or so of molasses or brown sugar for a sweeter flavor. Mix in a few spoonfuls of cornstarch to thicken the sauce to your liking, then set the bowl aside.

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Slice or cube your choice of meat -- most commonly pork, but chicken and beef also work -- or tofu into manageable chunks. Lightly grease a nonstick wok with vegetable or canola oil and place it over medium heat. Cook the meat through or lightly brown the tofu. Set the meat or tofu aside.

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Grease the wok with more oil and increase the heat to medium-high. Add a few cups of mung bean sprouts, which serve as the foundation of the dish, and one thinly sliced red or green bell pepper. Round out your chop suey with a spicy veggie such as a few sliced garlic gloves or slivered onion. If you want a crunchier texture and brighter flavor, add a handful of some combination of water chestnuts, snow peas or bamboo shoots. Stir-fry the vegetables until they're mostly tender -- add the crisp veggies after the others so they maintain just a bit of crunch.

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Shape the vegetable mixture into a well, give your sauce a quick stir and pour it into the center of the well. Increase the heat to high and allow the sauce to come to a gentle boil. Add the meat or tofu, then stir the ingredients together, re-heating the meat or tofu in the process. Sprinkle in salt and pepper to taste, and serve the hot mixture over delicate noodles, such as Udon noodles, or rice.