When Jianqin Wei, a research assistant professor at the UM Miller School of Medicine, couldn’t find authentic Chinese food in Miami, he took matters into his own hands.
The cardiologist opened his own restaurant, the Chop Suey International Restaurant, located at 27th Ave. and West Flagler Street. Wei, originally from Guangdong, China, said that few South Florida venues maintain traditional Chinese ingredients and cooking techniques.
“I want to offer real Chinese food for those who miss motherland dishes, and more importantly, I want more people to get to know more about Chop Suey and try what real Chinese food tastes like.”
To ensure a traditional flavor, he brings many ingredients from China, and has invited cooks from China to Miami to create the menu for his restaurant. One of Chop Suey’s signature dishes is the hot pot, a simmering metal pot placed at the center of the dining table. The ingredients cook while diners wait and chat.
Wei purchased the original Chop Suey, which was owned by Emilio Seng, who is Cuban and Chinese. The restaurant used to serve Nicaraguan and Cuban dishes as well.
Wei hired waiters like Marcial Mejia from the original Chop Suey. Mejia has been working there since 1996.
“I’m glad Mr. Wei let me continue working here,” he said. “Even though I’m only working part-time now, I really enjoy serving the guests here.”
Aside from Chinese food, Latin dishes like “chuleta de cerdo,” or a pork cutlet, are still part of Chop Suey’s menu.
According to Wei, UM students, especially international students from China, became regular customers.
“This is a great place to have traditional Chinese food,” junior Jason Lin said. “The hot pot is especially good; it’s definitely a treat you don’t want to miss out on for too long.”
Wei has also brought Chop Suey’s dishes to campus. In the last few years, he has provided food from his restaurant and great discount for the festivities held by the Chinese students, including the Chinese New Year celebration.
“We are all Chinese,” he said. “The number of Chinese students are getting greater in recently years, and many of them can’t go back to China during the long semester.”
Before becoming a restaurateur, Wei trained as a cardiologist in China. He then moved to the United States to further research heart disease in 1999. In 2010, he received the Stop Heart Disease Researcher of the Year award from the Florida Heart Research Institute.
Wei lives in Miami with his wife and two children, one of them a junior at UM.
Despite Wei’s experiences as a medical doctor and researcher, owning a restaurant has its challenges, too.
“It’s not easy to run a restaurant,” he said.