• Fresh Lettuce wraps with chicken - San choy bau

    4 votes
    Fresh Lettuce wraps with chicken - San choy bau
    Prep: 20 min Cook: 20 min Servings: 6
    by John Spottiswood
    300 recipes
    The fresh, crisp lettuce cups in this dish are why it is called San choy bau...which roughly means "raw vegetable". I love the mix of textures and flavors in this dish. Hot and cold, crunchy and soft, spicy and sweet. You and your guests won't be disappointed!


    • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
    • 3 tablespoons rice wine (shaoxing or other)
    • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
    • 8 dried shitake mushrooms
    • 12 water chestnuts peeled
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
    • 2 in piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
    • 2 fresh red chiles, seeded and finely chopped
    • 4 green onions finely chopped, greens and whites
    • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
    • 12 crisp butter lettuce leaves
    • salt and freshly ground black pepper


    1. Put 2 Tbsp of rice wine, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil and chicken in a food processor or blender and process until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate up to 2 hours. Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover with steaming water. Let stand for 30 min or so. Drain, saving the liquid, and squeeze excess liquid out of the mushrooms. Chop the mushrooms and set both the liquid and chopped mushrooms aside.
    2. Blanch the water chestnuts in boiling water for 1 minute, then rinse with cold water. Chop and set aside. Mix 1/4 cup reserved mushroom soaking liquid with the remaining 1 Tbsp rice wine, 2 tbsp soy sauce, and 1 tsp sesame oil. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Set aside.
    3. Heat a wok till very hot, and 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil, and swirl. Add garlic, ginger, chile and green onion and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add the chicken and stir fry 4-5 minutes to brown, chopping as it cooks so it cooks evenly, and removing excess liquid if needed. Transfer ingredients to a large bowl. Return walk to heat, add another Tbsp of vegetable oil, and add the mushrooms and water chestnuts and stir fry for one minute.
    4. Add the mushroom soy sauce liquid and any liquid removed from the chicken while cooking, and boil for 2 minutes. Return chicken mixture to the wok and stir fry until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Season with salt and plenty of fresh black pepper to taste. Put the chicken in a serving bowl and place it on a serving platter surrounded by the lettuce leaves. To eat, spoon out some chicken into a leaf, fold, and enjoy! If you know they will be eaten quickly, you can spoon the chicken into the leaves in advance and serve.

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    • Melanie Yunk
      Melanie Yunk
      This recipe sounds yummy, John! I'll be making it with my fresh lettuce from Hidden Villa and will most likely add some more fresh veggies from our weekly basket to the recipe. Thanks!
      • George Badger
        George Badger
        This is an easy dish to make and will do well as an entrée or appetizer. Very yummy

        I suggest not adding any salt, the soy sauce will do just fine, and letting the individual salt to their preference.

        You can also use pork, shrimp or beef rather than chicken. If you don't want to use any meat, dice an equivalent volume of a mixture of zucchini, dry tofu, carrots and use in place of the meat.

        You can add finely diced Chinese sausage at, Lap Cheong, step 3.
        I add fresh mint at step 4.
        • Karen Chow
          This sounds like a pretty good simple "Americanized" version. I have made this many times myself. Incidentally, "Sang choy bao" in Cantonese Chinese literally translates to "lettuce package/bun"--sang choy being lettuce, or literally "raw vegetable" and bao being the same bao that is the name of other buns--like roast pork buns (char siu bao). I have some further suggestions for making the flavor more complex and Chinese:
          1) Serve hoisin sauce (can be purchased at Asian markets) as an accompanying condiment, which can be added to the chicken mixture before folding up the lettuce cup. It adds another delicious layer of sweet/salty flavor.
          2) For vegetarians, you can make this with diced baked tofu (sometimes called pressed tofu) instead of chicken (the very firm pre-cooked tofu that looks like small square dark-brown blocks, which can be purchased at Asian markets in the refrigerator deli section). This is more "meat-like" in texture than other veggies.
          3) You can also add diced: red bell pepper, baby corn, bamboo shoots, pine nuts. I usually add these.
          4) If you want to get really fancy, you can garnish/serve with finely chopped peanuts and/or deep-fried thin rice sticks (like the ones often found in Chinese chicken salads) for additional crunch
          5) You don't have to use butter lettuce, which is pricier and frankly not as nice and crisp as iceberg lettuce. To make the iceberg lettuce leaves easy to separate, submerge a cold head in a bath of lukewarm water for a few minutes--this will make the leaves fall away from the head. Some people trim the edges to make the "cups" prettier--but I never bother with that.
          6) To save time, I usually use ground meat (pork, turkey, chicken, etc) to make this dish.


          • Jason Ball
            Jason Ball

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