Difference Wiki

Chow Mein vs. Chop Suey: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 24, 2023
Chow mein refers to stir-fried noodles with vegetables and sometimes meat, while chop suey is a mixed stir-fried dish of meat and vegetables, often served over rice.

Key Differences

Chow mein and chop suey are both Chinese-American dishes, but they differ in their primary ingredients and presentation. While chow mein is centered around stir-fried noodles, chop suey focuses on a mix of meat and vegetables.
One of the defining characteristics of chow mein is its noodles. These are either stir-fried to a crisp texture or left soft, depending on the preference. Chop suey, however, does not typically contain noodles and is more of a meat and vegetable combination.
While chow mein's base of noodles is almost always constant, the meats and vegetables that accompany them can vary. Chop suey, with its American origins, has a more standardized mix of ingredients, such as chicken, beef, shrimp, and an assortment of vegetables.
In restaurants, when one orders chow mein, they expect a noodle dish with various toppings. Chop suey, on the other hand, is often served with rice, complementing the hearty meat and vegetable mix.
Both dishes represent the fusion of Chinese culinary traditions with Western preferences. Chow mein's emphasis on noodles celebrates the traditional Chinese love for noodles, whereas chop suey is a testament to adaptation, with its origins rooted in catering to American tastes.

Comparison Chart

Primary Ingredient

Meat and Vegetables

Served With

Sometimes accompanied by a sauce
Often served over rice


Can be crispy or soft, depending on preparation
Generally soft, due to stir-fried nature


Chinese, popularized in Western countries

Main Feature

Stir-fried noodles with varying toppings
A mixed stir-fry of meat and vegetables

Chow Mein and Chop Suey Definitions

Chow Mein

Chow mein can have a crispy or soft texture.
I prefer the crispy version of chow mein over the soft one.

Chop Suey

Chop suey can contain a wide variety of ingredients.
From beef to chicken, this chop suey seems to have it all.

Chow Mein

Chow mein often comes with vegetables and various meats.
The beef chow mein at the local restaurant is delectable.

Chop Suey

Chop suey is a stir-fry dish combining meat and vegetables.
Chop suey with shrimp is my favorite choice at the diner.

Chow Mein

Chow mein's sauce can vary, from soy-based to more savory selections.
The sauce used in this chow mein really enhances its flavor.

Chop Suey

Chop suey often accompanies rice.
The chop suey tastes even better when mixed with steamed rice.

Chow Mein

Chow mein is a dish featuring stir-fried noodles.
For dinner, I ordered chicken chow mein with extra vegetables.

Chop Suey

Chop suey is a Chinese-American culinary invention.
Despite its American origins, chop suey still retains elements of traditional Chinese cuisine.

Chow Mein

Chow mein represents a fusion of Chinese and Western culinary tastes.
Many consider chow mein a classic example of Chinese-American cuisine.

Chop Suey

Chop suey's sauce is typically thick, adding flavor to its ingredients.
The rich sauce in the chop suey binds all the ingredients perfectly together.


What is chow mein?

Chow mein is a Chinese dish made from stir-fried noodles, meat (like chicken, beef, or shrimp), and vegetables.

Is chow mein a traditional Chinese dish?

Yes, though the versions available in Western countries might be adapted to local tastes.

How is chow mein different from lo mein?

Chow mein usually refers to stir-fried noodles with a slightly crispy texture, while lo mein features noodles that are fully boiled and soft.

How is chow mein typically served?

It's usually served as a main course in a bowl or on a plate.

Are the noodles in chow mein crispy or soft?

It can be both. There are crispy chow mein (fried noodles) and soft chow mein (stir-fried noodles).

What is chop suey?

Chop suey is a Chinese-American dish made from meat (often chicken or pork) and eggs, quickly cooked with vegetables in a starch-thickened sauce.

What does "chop suey" mean?

In Cantonese, "chop suey" means "assorted pieces" or "mixed bits."

Is chop suey authentic Chinese cuisine?

The dish, as it's known in the West, is considered more of a Chinese-American creation, though it might have roots in Southern China.

How is chop suey served?

It's typically served with rice or noodles.

How did chop suey become popular?

It gained popularity in the U.S. in the early 20th century, often attributed to Chinese immigrants adapting their recipes to American tastes.

Is chow mein spicy?

It can be, depending on the recipe or personal preference, but it's not inherently spicy.

Are there vegetarian versions of chow mein?

Yes, chow mein can be made with only vegetables or with tofu as a protein substitute.

What are typical vegetables in chop suey?

Commonly used vegetables include bean sprouts, celery, bell peppers, and water chestnuts.

Is chop suey sauce similar to chow mein?

Both might use similar ingredients like soy sauce, but chop suey sauce is often thicker due to added starch.

Does chop suey contain noodles?

Not traditionally, but some Western variations might serve it over noodles.

What does "chow mein" mean?

In Chinese, "chow" means "stir-fried" and "mein" means "noodles."

What are common vegetables in chow mein?

Common choices include bell peppers, cabbage, onions, bean sprouts, and carrots.

Which sauces are used in chow mein?

Common sauces include soy sauce, oyster sauce, and hoisin sauce, sometimes combined with garlic and ginger.

Is chop suey a staple in Chinese households?

While it has roots in Chinese cuisine, the Westernized version of chop suey is not a staple in traditional Chinese households.

Is chop suey similar to chow mein?

While both dishes might have overlapping ingredients, chow mein emphasizes noodles, while chop suey typically focuses on a thick sauce and is often served with rice.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons