American Chop Suey

Posted on Sep 2 2009 - 10:07am by RetroRuth

Hamburger001Hello everyone!  Welcome to this week’s Mid-Century Menu, where I pick a recipe from my vast array of vintage cookbooks and make it for dinner, forcing my husband to eat it no matter what.  In all fairness, he is excited to eat the sometimes noxious concoctions, but it still makes me feel a little evil. Muwahaha!

Anyway, this week’s Menu comes from a really cool looking cookbook from Good Housekeeping called Hamburger Cook Book. This book was published in 1961, and has the distinction of being the coolest Mid-Century cookbook cover I have ever seen. I love this photo!  Inside it has the prerequisite scary food pics, but the outside could be mistaken for a modern cookbook. The photography for this cookbook, by the by, was done by Hi Williams.  I am not that familiar with photographers, but I think I found a little info on him here.  If anyone knows more, feel free to comment!

We picked this cookbook up for the bargain price of a quarter at the Salvation Army in West Allis, Wisconsin.  We were on our way to Penzy’s Spices and just decided to stop for a look-see.  This was one of two cookbooks found there, and I am thinking it was a pretty awesome find.

As the title of this cookbook suggests, it is almost completely dedicated to the ground beef that we call hamburger.  And while there are other ground meats called for in some recipes, I would say the majority of the book has to do with making a good hamburger and versions of hamburger.

Now, I normally don’t do this, but I had to add some extras from the cookbook, because I think they are great.


What every woman should know about hamburgers.  I mean, there was no way I was going to skip over adding this, especially if EVERY woman needs to know! If you want to see a bigger version, just click on the picture.

And it continues.


Once again, the photos are super cool.

With that out of the way, we can continue with the Menu!


Now, even though Tom and I weren’t playing Bridge, he was intrigued by the American Chop Suey.  It isn’t the kind of American Chop Suey that most of us know, which is a combo of tomatoes, ground meat and elbow macaroni.  Not that a version like that wouldn’t have been interesting, but we were intrigued because this one actually tries to be “real” chop suey.  I was a little reticent because of the Eggs Oriental debacle, which was the last time we had tried the mid-century take on asian. But Tom was excited.


Canned bean sprouts.  Delicious. Besides that, the only thing I can see wrong with this recipe is that it is missing what heat I am supposed to be cooking things.  Ah well, I will just guess.

And, we are off!

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The assembled ingredients.  That measuring cup in the center contains 1/4 cup of drained can mushroom liquid. Once again, delicious.

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This one came together surprisingly quickly, which was nice.  Here the onions, celery and hamburger make nice in the skillet.  I have to admit that this step was kind of a pain.  It would have been easier to brown the hamburger, then add the onions and celery, but in the end everything cooked up just fine.

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See?  All ready for the extras.

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Mixing the cornstarch with the canned mushroom liquid.  It seems so…wrong.

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The extra ingredents are added. Notice the beansprouts standing proudly in their retained canned shape. Glorious.

The 10 minute cook time was pretty uneventful.  I used it to prep the fruit salad for the meal.

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The last step, adding the soy sauce to the gloop.  Looks good, doesn’t it? Huh? Huh?

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Ta-da! Dinner is served, conplete with crisp crackers, orange-pineapple-banana salad and tomato juice.

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Tom getting ready for his first bite.  Notice the steam billowing in the picture.  It was hot, but we were too hungry to wait!

Inevitably, I asked, “How is it?”

He shrugged his shoulders, “It’s good. Nothing too crazy.”

We munched away for a little bit in silence.  I pondered how odd chunks of cooked celery taste.

“You know,”  Tom said, “I think my mom used to make something like this.”

“I know what you mean!  I was just thinking it tastes exactly like those canned LaChoy meals.  I totally feel like a kid.”

Tom nodded his head. “Now all we need are those crispy chow mein noodles.”

“Here, have a crispy cracker.”

The verdict: Good

American Chop Suey: A little bland, but good overall. Tasted like a canned LaChoy dinner.

Orange-Pineapple-Banana Salad: Excellent.  Can’t beat fresh fruit!

Crackers: Like crackers

Tomato juice: Needed hot sauce

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I love everything retro, vintage, mid-century, kitsch and all things atomic! A 21st century housewife just trying to fit the 50's. I have a passion for vintage recipes and an enormous vintage cookbook collection that I keep testing, even though by now I should know better. Creator of Mid-Century Menu (, No Pattern Required (, and I Ate The 80's (

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10 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Sara in AZ September 2, 2009 at 12:58 pm - Reply

    Ummmmm, I want to thank you Ruth! I was just thinking to myself earlier today “What is it that I do not know about hamburger, but really NEED to know”. You have helped tremendously. He He!!! 🙂 Wait a minute, wait just a minute…what about the ‘pots of tea’??? This could have been critical to the menu as a whole. JK! Glad it did not turn out to terrible, it definitely does remind me of a La Choy meal. Love the North Star plates! Hooray for a not to crazy meal!

    • RetroRuth September 2, 2009 at 1:03 pm - Reply

      I know! It was information you didn’t even know you needed to know! Wait…what?

      Oh, and in regard to the tea, you can see Tom’s tea mug in the shot where he is taking a bite…but I have to admit, there weren’t POTS… 🙂

  2. Sara in AZ September 2, 2009 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    Oh, whew, good to know there was at least some tea involved – even if not in the “pots”! 😉

  3. sablemable September 2, 2009 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    Well, I know I’m “different”, LOL, but I happened to love chop suey made this way, especially served over the chow mein noodles! Mom made this for us kids.

    LOL@knowing hamburgers!!!!!!! Did I tell you that Bob was once a meat cutter? Yep, he attended the now defunct Toledo Meat Cutters School. Reminds me of the joke about the meat cutter who backed into his meat grinder and got a little behind in his work, LOL!

  4. 50s Pam September 2, 2009 at 9:07 pm - Reply

    becoming a vegetarian after seeing that cookbook cover.

  5. Maggie September 3, 2009 at 8:51 am - Reply

    I’m gonna forego comment on this one, which left me a little queasy, and just ask: What’s the maker and pattern on your lovely dinner plates, Ruth? And are they china or melmac?

    • RetroRuth September 3, 2009 at 9:27 am - Reply

      Awww…come on, Pam! You don’t like to see raw meat getting ground up? 🙂

      Hi Maggie! The plates are china, and they are Salem’s North Star pattern. I love them because they were really popular, and so you can get a whole set just by going to the local Goodwill or Salvation army and picking up a piece here or there.

      Sable – It was good, so you aren’t “different”. Well…not because you like American Chop Suey, anyway. 🙂 By the by, I am emailing that joke to my mom!

  6. Hubs September 3, 2009 at 10:49 am - Reply

    I did like the meal. It would have been a winner if it had the chow mein noodles and I would prefer pork or chopped sirloin over the hamburger.

  7. sablemable September 3, 2009 at 11:53 am - Reply

    I forgot to mention that Mom used pork in her American chop suey, but, I did try myself with the ground beef; just had to use more soy sauce.

  8. Amy September 4, 2009 at 2:35 am - Reply

    Well it actually looks ok, I normally add tomatoes to my mince.

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