Chicken chop suey, my father's story of radish

Chicken chop suey with Chinese vegetable, my father’s memories of radish and the great femine in 1961

I sent some chicken chop suey with sweet-salty radish to father’s house today. Examining the food, my father told me a story about radish and the great famine in the late 1950s.

My father went to a major university in Wuhan in the late 50s. During the final year in the university,  the school canteen ran out of food as they were not able to source any supplies locally. With very little reserved funds, the university asked the students for loans. After the school collected sufficient money, they sent a truck to farms in the next province and bought a load of radish. In high spirits, students were organized into groups to preserve the radish – peeling, sliding and drying the radish in front of the dormitories.  The canteen cooked dried salted radish most of the year with steamed wheat buns (‘mantou’).  That was the period my father suffered malnutrition but built solid life-long friendships. The period is referred to as the ‘Great Chinese Famine’.

My father and other college students having a picnic after a swimming session,  summer 1961
My father and other college students enjoying a picnic after a swim in the river, Wuhan, China, summer of 1961
Young college student in Wuhan, China in 1961
My father and other college students on a farm, Wuhan, China, summer of 1961

Father and I sat down to enjoyed the chicken chop suey I made. It was juicy, sweet and salty. We were very grateful for the delicious food.

The recipe is as follows:


  • 200g chicken thigh fillet, diced
  • 20g leek, diced
  • 20g bamboo shoot, diced
  • 20g carrot, diced
  • 20g preserved salted radish, diced
  • 20g peas
  • a few slices of ginger, finely diced (approx 3g)
  • 4 Chinese mushrooms, soak in hot water for 20 minutes, remove stem, diced
  • 10g lily buds, soak in hot water for 20 minutes, remove any end bits that are not soft, diced (optional)
  • 1tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • salt and pepper
  • cooking oil
  • green shallot, to garnish


  • In a frying pan, heat up cooking oil, add leek, carrot, bamboo shoot, Chinese mushroom, lily buds and ginger and stir fry for 5 minutes; transfer to a bowl
  • Heat up the frying pan again with some cooking oil, add chicken pieces and radish, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil; stir fry until the chicken is nearly cooked
  • Add the above Chinese vegetables, stir fry for until the chicken pieces are fully cooked; add peas and sauté for a few minutes; add salt and pepper to taste
  • transfer to a bowl to serve; garnish with green shallot
Lily buds
Salted radish
Salted radish
Chinese mushroom to be hydrated
Chinese mushroom to be hydrated




    1. Thank you for the kind words. I have a little boy who has everything. I told him stories like this one to make sure that he respects what he has – love, friendship and the freshest & nutritious food.


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