Fall River’s Chow Mein Sandwich Has a Chop Suey Counterpart in Salem
Fall River’s chow mein sandwich is a legend in these parts, a simple yet effective meal really fills you up without putting a dent in your wallet. It is believed to have been invented sometime in the 1930s or '40s as a way to provide a cheap, hot meal at a time when money was especially tight.
Although it is said to have been invented in the Spindle City, it soon spread to the surrounding towns but remained a uniquely SouthCoast sandwich.
Did you know, though, that it has a North Shore counterpart – one that may even predate the chow mein sandwich?
There are articles floating around that Salem Lowe, a popular Chinese restaurant in the Witch City, is closing its doors on August 14. Apparently, Salem Lowe is known for the chop suey sandwich.
According to NewEnglandHistoricalSociety.com, the chop suey sandwich was developed by Chinese immigrants in Salem around 1875, and Salem Lowe was the last restaurant to feature it on the menu after it became popular at the Salem Willows seaside park.
What’s the difference between the two?
Fall River’s chow mein sandwich features chow mein noodles and usually vegetables and sometimes meat slathered onto a hamburger bun and topped with brown gravy and crispy fried chow mein noodles for that signature crunch.
Salem’s chop suey sandwich features bean sprouts, celery, onion, ether chicken or pork, and a thick soy gravy on a hamburger bun. You could get it served on a plate, or in a paper cone for eating while walking along the beach.
However, we discovered that the chop suey sandwich isn’t exactly exclusive to Salem; Wah May, the popular Chinese restaurant in Fairhaven, offers both chow mein and chop suey sandwiches. You can even order a sandwich that is a mixture of the two. All three of them are under $6 each.
There’s yet another sandwich created using a Chinese food staple, although you won’t find it around here. The St. Paul sandwich takes an egg foo young patty (without the customary brown gravy) and slaps it between some toasted (or untoasted) white bread along with lettuce, tomato, pickles and mayo.
That sandwich may be named after a Minnesota town, but it was popularized in Missouri, and particularly St. Louis, in the early 1940s.
So while Fall River may take pride in the chow mein sandwich, it’s not the only Chinese cuisine to be fused with American sandwich ingenuity.