Chicken chop suey, my father’s story of radish

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Chicken chop suey, my father's story of radish

I sent some chicken chop suey with sweet-salty radish to father’s house today. Examining the food, my father told me the following story.

My father went to a major university in Wuhan in the late 50s. During the 4th year in the university,  the school canteen ran out of food, meat or vegetables, as they were not able to source any supplies locally. With very little excess funds, the university  asked the students for loans. When the school collected sufficient money, they sent a truck to farms in the next province and came back with a load of radish. 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 plain wheat buns (‘mantou’).  That was the year my father suffered malnutrition with swollen legs. Many people died over this period, referred to as the ‘Great Chinese Famine’. Fortunately, the situation improved quickly after a couple of years.

My father and other college students having a picnic after a swimming session,  summer 1961
My father and other college students having a picnic after a swimming session, summer 1961

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

Recipe is as follows:


  • 200g chicken thigh fillet, diced
  • 20g leek, diced
  • 20g bamboo shoot, diced
  • 20g carrot, diced
  • 20g preserved radish, diced
  • 20g extra firm tofu, diced
  • 20g peas
  • a few slice 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’s not soft, diced
  • 1tbs oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp 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, tofu, 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 for 5 minutes; add the above vegetables, stir fry for until the chicken pieces are cooked; add peas and simmer for a few minutes; add salt and pepper to taste
  • transfer to a bowl to serve; garnish with green shallot

Ingredients Chop Suey

Plain extra firm tofu, FODMAP diet, gluten free, vegan
Extra firm tofu
Salted radish
Salted radish (sweet variety)
Chinese mushrooms
Chinese mushrooms




2 thoughts on “Chicken chop suey, my father’s story of radish

    ladyredspecs said:
    October 26, 2015 at 8:52 am

    In the affluence of the west, we need reminders that food hasn’t always been fresh and abundant. Treasure you Father’s memories, they will pass with him

    Liked by 1 person

      DelishHomeCook responded:
      October 27, 2015 at 6:40 am

      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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