The 2 Presidents Who Loved Chop Suey

Chop suey is a fairly straightforward dish. The Spruce Eats explains that chop suey, not to be confused with chow mein, involves the slicing of meat and vegetables that are then stir-fried in a sauce before being accompanied by rice. (Chow mein, by contrast, uses noodles and stir-fried vegetables.) The dish's origins aren't entirely clear, but it's thought to have been created in the U.S. sometime in the 1890s. Andrew Coe, the author of "Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States," told The New Yorker that chop suey became an especially big hit between 1900 and 1960 – as popular as apple pie and hot dogs. Indeed, Smithsonian Magazine regards it as a staple of U.S. cuisine.

Respect for chop suey is evidenced by the fact that even American presidents held it in high regard. A series of authors and museum sources cited by Food Timeline suggests that while the meal was sometimes enjoyed by Lyndon B. Johnson, chop suey was a real favorite of Calvin Coolidge (America's 30th president from 1923 to 1929) and Dwight D. Eisenhower (in power between 1953 and 1961). 

Coolidge and Eisenhower enjoyed chicken chop suey

A passage from "The Presidents' Cookbook" posted by Food Timeline states that a particular favorite of Calvin Coolidge (who curiously referred to every meal as "supper") was chicken chop suey – even though chickens he kept at The White House had an unexpected mint flavor due to being reared on top of a mint bed. Per an excerpt from "Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America" (via the US-China Institute), Coolidge enlisted a Chinese chef to prepare chop suey on the presidential yacht. The recipe included water chestnuts, Chinese rice wine, beans, and Jasmine rice (via The Daily Beast).

Writing in the Journal of Transnational American Studies, Haiming Liu describes president Dwight D. Eisenhower's love affair with chicken chop suey. He ate it during military service in the 1930s, visiting Sun Chop Suey Restaurant in Washington D.C. He continued to enjoy the establishment during his presidency. According to an American Heritage piece by Andrew Coe, Eisenhower would also order egg foo young, fried rice, and almond cookies.

Despite its fame, Smithsonian Magazine reports that chop suey has become so mainstream that its popularity has waned. TasteAtlas agrees, saying chop suey has been "over-Americanized," causing consumers to switch their attention toward traditional Chinese dishes such as Beijing duck and Gong Bao chicken. It seems that not even a presidential pardon could salvage the reputation of chop suey.