Chop Suey Soup (Chai Boey)

Chop Suey Soup (Chai Boey)

The Chinese New Year festivities would not be complete without this much awaited dish called Chai Boey which literally means leftovers. This is a tangy dish of mustard greens boiled with leftover meats and vegetables, popularly known as Chop Suey in our family. There is no specific recipe and the taste differs each time depending on what is leftover from the feasts of the previous days. While some families will dump in all their leftovers, Mom is more selective in what she puts into this dish. Siew Yoke (Roast Pork Belly) is a must as it provides the fat to moisten the mustard greens. The only other leftover she will include is the Jiu Hu Char from which my Warm Jicama and Cabbage Salad is based on. Instead of shrimps, Jiu Hu Char has pork, cuttlefish, and mushrooms in it.

Although we call this dish Chop Suey, it is not to be mistaken for the version found here in the US. The idea however, is similar in that a mixture of ingredients is used. Chop Suey as known here is cooked with meats, celery, cabbage, bean sprouts, and noodles in a starch-thickened sauce typically served with rice. Chai Boey on the other hand is more soupy, tangy, and spicy.

Chop Suey Soup (Chai Boey)

Pickled mustard greens (kiam chai) are sold in plastic packages. Tamarind slices are a little more difficult to find here but it can be substituted with tamarind paste or lime juice.

Chop Suey Soup (Chai Boey)

Mustard greens, on the other hand, can be easily found at the Asian grocery stores. These leafy green vegetables have a peppery taste and can stand up to being boiled without breaking down too much.

Chop Suey Soup (Chai Boey)

This recipe is very forgiving and the ingredients listed here are more of a guide. Please adjust accordingly. If you cannot get some of the ingredients, please refer to the notes at the end of this post. I have cook this successfully with various substitutions.

Chop Suey Soup (Chai Boey)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4 to 6 servings
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 lb (450g) crackly roast pork belly, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small package pickled mustard greens (kiam chai), sliced
  • 6 dried chilies, soaked in warm water
  • 4 to 5 slices assam gelugor (tamarind slices)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 large stalk Chinese mustard greens, sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes (optional)
  1. Heat oil in a large pot. Add crackly roast pork belly, onion, and garlic. Fry until onion and garlic are lightly brown, about 3 minutes.
  2. Pour about 10 cups (2.4 liters) of water into the pot. Add pickled mustard greens, dried chilies, and assam gelugor (tamarind slices).
  3. When it comes to a boil, add salt, dark soy sauce and as much mustard greens as the pot can accommodate. Put the lid on and allow vegetables to cook down.
  4. Add remaining mustard leaves and tomatoes.
  5. Reduce heat and allow it to simmer for about 1½ to 2 hours.
1. If you do not have crackly roast pork belly, use 6 slices of bacon and 1 pound of pork sirloin cut into bite size pieces. These should be added at the beginning together with onions and garlic.

2. Asam gelugor (tamarind slices) may be substituted with 2 teaspoon (or more depending on taste) of asam jawa (tamarind paste). If you can’t find tamarind slices or tamarind paste, add in lime juice. I have tried this and it tastes just as good.

3. Any leftovers that you may wish to include should be added to the pot when vegetables are being added.

Delicious on its own or with a steaming bowl of white rice.

Chop Suey Soup (Chai Boey)
Chop Suey Soup (Chai Boey)

Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day! 😎

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  1. says

    You know what Biren? I don’t eat pork, but when my Grandma made this dish, I couldn’t resist to have a few bowls. I left out the pork meat of course but the flavor of the soup was amazing, even though I knew there was pork in there. Your version looks wonderfully delicious. Oh you’re making me crave for this now.

  2. says

    I know grom just glancing at your soup that I would love it. It’s full of ingredsients I love and would well well on my table. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Blessings…Mary

  3. says

    Hi Biren! I have had chop suey several times, but now I’m eager to try this more traditional Chai Boey! Thank you for sharing another great recipe with me. You never let me down! I hope you have a weekend of love and relaxation. We all need it, I think!

  4. says

    Hi Biren,
    Your bowl of soup looks like a satisfying bowl of comfort food to be enjoyed on a relaxing weekend with family or friends. I hope you’re relaxing this weekend, best wishes, Patty

  5. says

    Mmmm..MmmmmM!!! Tangy is right – my mouth is puckering in anticipation just reading the recipe LOL I LOVE this!! We sometimes make a serani/peranakan version after Christmas day with roast pork, ham or bacon bones, a whole head of garlic, ginger, tua chye, kiam chye and sour plums then wallop with rice and sambal belacan. Se-dap!!! I learned this from my grandma, who learned it from her Peranakan stepmother. My family very chap chye 😉

  6. says

    Delicious! I remember when I was in elementary school they served “chop suey” and it looked nothing like yours. Your recipe looks delicious….my schools recipe…not so much.

  7. says

    Everyone over here cook this dish after all the leftovers from the reunion dinner…I love it too. Yours looks great and I am salivating just looking at it :)

    Have a nice day, Biren,

  8. says

    Wow! My favourite! Love, love, this dish! The spicier and sour it is, the more ‘kick’ there is! I could eat two bowls of this on its own. The roasted pork adds the yumminess to this all-time favourite. I would usually have this at the ‘bak-kut-teh’ stalls. Have not made this in ages! Yours look really delicious!

  9. Jeannie says

    I was drooling over this dish when my boss walked in and I have to quickly close it lol! Your chai boey definitely do not look like leftovers! Yummy!

  10. Cynthia chua George says

    Looking at this dish makes me think of uncle barney’s chop suey. I remembers those days when he would make this in a gigantic stockpot!! Yum!

    • Biren says

      I try to reserve just a little bit of the crackly pork to make this every year. Yes, I remember those gigantic pots for bak kut teh, porridge, and chop suey. Do check out my bak kut teh post I was so excited the last time I went to the Asian grocery store as I discovered I may be able to get the individual herbs here. Will try mixing my own one of these days. :)

  11. superbadkitty says

    Hey, your photos are torturing meeeeeee! Lol! Thanks for the step-by-step. Looks fantastic, will try your recipe this weekend.

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