Czech Plazas chop suey

This week in Omnivorous I wrote about Berwyn’s Czech Plaza, where Zdenka Manetti somewhat ruefully told me that the seniors who frequent her family’s 48-year-old restaurant have a very low tolerance for salt. Czech food is hardly the most aggressively seasoned cuisine to begin with, so I was a bit surprised that one of its most popular dishes was probably the saltiest one I’d tried there.

Of course, the restaurant’s recipe for chop suey—made with a “dash” of soy sauce—didn’t originate in Bohemia. Zdenka says it long predated the late 80s, when the family arrived in Berwyn. Nor is chop suey the wholly American invention most people think. Alan Davidson in The Oxford Companion to Food says the various accounts of the dish’s American origins are “culinary mythology.” Chop suey really was born in rural Taishan, China, and it really was composed of leftover tsap seui, or “miscellaneous scraps.”