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Today's Case

Chop Suey Bars

Subject: Chop Suey Bars
From: Connie
Date: 3/8/2021, 7:04 AM

On 3/7/2021 8:33 PM, Connie wrote:


Memories of an old spiced bar with firm chocolate icing sold in bakeries in 
Rhode Island has come up in conversation a couple of times recently. 
Supposedly they were called Chop Suey Bars or Chop Suey Pastry.†
Apparently they were popular during WW ll as they held up well and could be 
sent to soldiers and sailors.
There are recipes for Chop Suey Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, but thatís 
not it.
I did find a thread with other people looking for a recipe, or bakeries in 
Rhode Island that might still make them.

Chef Talk

Iím hoping you might be able to help.


Hi Connie,

"Chop Suey" comes from the Chinese "tsap seui", which translates as "miscellaneous leftovers" or "odds and ends" or "assorted ingredients." There are numerous dishes that incorporate the name "chop suey." Some are savory, such as the "chop suey" found on Chinese restaurant menus, and "American Chop Suey", which is a quick stove-top dish consisting† of macaroni (or other noodles), tomatoes, and ground beef.

On the pastry or bread side, there are "chop suey cakes", "chop suey bread", "chop suey loaves",† "chop suey buns", "chop suey cookies", and so on.

Originally, all of these things apparently consisted of leftovers from dishes of one type or another that were put together to make something unlike any one of them. Over the years, these became recipes that were not so much of a mish-mash. The ingredients that were the most popular became prevalent in the dishes or pastries.†

The pastry versions of "chop suey" likely began when bakers would take their leftover dough and add fruit and raisins and other odds and ends to it and call it "chop suey".††

The only thing that I can find about "chop suey pastry" in RI is that link that you sent. The first post describes them as They were little loaves that had raisins, nuts, molasses and a thin ribbon of fudge that went across the top of them. If you read all of the posts, you'll see that the ingredients differ in people's memories. Perhaps that's because each bakery made the pastries from whatever leftover ingredients they had on hand. If you scroll down that page, there is even a recipe of sorts posted there. Does that recipe match your memory? It calls for brown sugar frosting, not chocolate.† Each bakery probably used similar ingredients each time they made them, but there was likely more variation in ingredients from bakery to bakery. That makes it almost impossible for me to find a recipe that matches your memory.

I did a lot of searching for "chop suey bars" - which brought no recipes,†just references to bars or restaurants. I searched for "chop suey pastry" and found a couple of bakeries that sold something with that name, but they were made with apples and cinnamon and did not have chocolate frosting.

I then searched for† "chop suey loaves", "chop suey cakes", "chop suey bread", "chop suey cookies" and "chop suey buns".†There are numerous recipes on the web with these names - too many and too varied for me to try to pick one of them and say "that's it!"

Do you remember the names of any of the bakeries where you got them? Perhaps you can find out more if one of them is still in business. Some of the posters on "Chef Talk" seemed to think that the bakeries in RI that sold them were Portuguese Bakeries, but I could not find any connection there.

I'll post this. Maybe one of my readers will have some input.


Subject: Chop Suey Bars
From: Philippa 
Date: 4/4/2021, 11:09 PM
To: phaedrus@hungrybrowser com

Hi Phaed,

Marshall Field's in Chicago used to have a bar called Chinese Chew.  The bar was a mixture with 
finely chopped dates plus walnuts, but the chocolate was inside the mixture.  Maybe bakers in Rhode 
Island put the chocolate in the frosting.
Does your reader remember the bar having dates?


On Apr 5, 2021, at 11:12 AM, Phaedrus wrote:

Hi Connie,

Did these bars contain dates and /or coconut?


Subject: Chop Suey Bars
From: Connie
Date: 4/6/2021, 11:36 AM

Hello Phaedrus

What Iíve come to learn is that each baker had their own method using leftover pastries.†
The people Iíve spoken with that remember them described something like a spice bar with 
a thin layer of chocolate or glaze icing. Specifically they were firm and shipped well.
I suppose that dates, coconut, raisins could have been used at the whim of the baker.??
Iíve inquired at several bakeries in Rhode Island and no one remembers them.??


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