A delicious Chinese classic that's the perfect starter to a Chinese meal or can make a low fat, low carb lunch or dinner.
I don't care to admit just how many years ago it was I first experienced San Choy Bau, but it was definitely love at first bite - the unusual combination of hot and juicy minced pork packed full of delicious Chinese flavours wrapped in a refreshingly crisp leaf of lettuce was a crunchy, tasty surprise!
Over the years the ingredients I've included have evolved, especially as the availability of oriental ingredients has become more accessible and diverse, although every ingredient here (bar one optional ingredient which can be substituted) should be easily sourced from most peoples' local supermarkets. And now the method has evolved too, from wok to Thermomix! If you would like to cook it in the more traditional manner, you can find my recipe and method here.
Serves four as a main, with accompaniments (e.g. rice, noodles, cauliflower rice, zero noodles etc.) or other dishes, or four as a light meal on its own - or serves up to eight as a canapé/starter. The cooked meat freezes well too, and can be re-heated and served with noodles or rice with a splash of extra stock and a little soy sauce or tamari to taste.
Calories: 290 per main serving if made with pork (274 if made with chicken) and split between four people.
This is a also a great dish to share (looks nice for a buffet or meal/starter for friends served in a bowl on a large plate surrounded by individual baby gem leaves etc. for people to help themselves to).
If you serve it with iceberg lettuce leaves, place two or three spoonfuls of the cooked mince onto a leaf, and roll up tightly then eat with your fingers. Alternatively serve with firm baby leaves (e.g. baby gem lettuce) and just pile a spoonful on the top to eat. If serving with rice or noodles etc., although not strictly authentic, it's nice to put a spoonful of that in the wrap with the pork too!
This freezes well, and tastes great warmed up the next day as well - the flavours develop really nicely.
[Calories in square brackets, if you're counting - if not feel free to use full fat pork etc.]
- 500g lean minced pork (5% fat) [615 calories], or 500g minced chicken breast 
- 1 x 227g tin water chestnuts, drained (about 140g) 
- 1 tsp sugar (optional) 
- 2 tbsp (30ml) light soy sauce (or Tamari sauce for Gluten Free) 
- 2 tbsp (30ml) Chinese rice wine (e.g. Shaohsing/Shaoxing), or dry sherry / dry white wine (check ingredients if cooking Gluten Free) 
- 2 tsp cornflour/cornstarch 
- Salt and pepper to your taste (I use 1/4 tsp pepper and 1/2 tsp of salt) 
- 2 tsp oil of choice (or more, if not counting calories) 
- 2 inches ginger root, peeled and cut into 'coins' 
- 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled 
- 1 large red chilli, deseeded and cut into 1cm slices (optional) 
- 250g closed cup mushrooms, halved if large 
- 2-3 large dried shiitake mushrooms (about 15g dry weight), soaked according to instructions, stalks cut off and discarded, and quartered (or you can use fresh shiitake mushrooms instead, around 70g) 
- 60g Szechuan/Sichuan preserved vegetables (optional, available at Oriental stores or online, shredded in packets, jars or tins - if not using you could add an extra chilli, and an extra garlic clove or two for flavour. I freeze what I don't use in portions for future dishes. Check ingredients if cooking Gluten Free - I like to use a Chinese pickle called 'Spicy Sansi', which comes in see-through packets and is indeed pretty spicy!) 
- 2 tsp rice vinegar 
- 50g oyster sauce (around 3 tbsp, or to taste - check ingredients if cooking Gluten Free: Wok Mei brand is GF, but many are not) 
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil (or more to taste) 
- 5 spring onions / scallions - 4 cut into 3cm lengths, plus one finely sliced to garnish 
- 16 crisp lettuce leaves to serve as 'wraps' (e.g. small or halved iceberg lettuce leaves, or use more crisp baby leaves e.g. baby gem) 
1. Prepare the lettuce leaves - if you want to crisp them up more, put in a bowl of cold water for an hour before serving.
2. Chop the vegetables as follows: Water chestnuts for 2 seconds / Speed 4, then scrape out. Four spring onions for 2 seconds / Speed 5, then scrape out. Preserved Szechuan vegetables (if using) 3 seconds / Speed 6, then scrape out and set aside. If using soaked shiitake mushrooms, drop onto running blades Speed 8 and then scrape out and reserve with fresh mushrooms.
3. Drop the garlic, ginger and chilli onto running blades, Speed 8, then scrape down. Add 10g oil then cook 3 minutes / Varoma temperature / Reverse / Speed 2 / MC off.
4. Add all of the mushrooms to the bowl, put the MC on, and chop 2 seconds / Speed 4. Then scrape down and cook for 5 minutes / Varoma / Reverse / Speed 2 / MC off. Scrape down if necessary, and cook for a further 3 minutes / 100C / Reverse / Speed 2 / MC off.
5. Add the minced meat broken in large chunks, 1 tsp sugar, 2tbsp soy sauce, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste), and in a very small dish mix the 2tbsp rice wine with the 2 tsp cornflour until smooth and add that to the bowl too. Give a quick mix for 2 seconds / Reverse / Speed 4 / MC on (repeat if necessary).
6. Cook for 5 minutes / 100C / Reverse / Speed Spoon (slowest speed) / MC off. Add the water chestnuts, Szechuan preserved vegetables (if using), 2tsp rice vinegar, 50g oyster sauce, 1tsp toasted sesame oil and give the mixture a brief stir around with the spatula to mix everything in, then cook for a further 2 minutes / 100C / Reverse / Speed 1.5 / MC off. Ensure pork is cooked through - if not, give another couple of minutes and check again.
7. Add the chopped spring onions, give a quick stir in (if it's looking too dry, add a tbsp of water or so, although you shouldn't need to - it should be nicely coated with a slight shine), and cook for a final 1 minutes and 30 seconds / 85C / Reverse / Speed 1.5.
8. Serve garnished with the sliced spring onions, with the lettuce leaves served separately for guests to pile the meat into and roll up (with large leaves), or top with and eat.
If you want a bit of extra crunch, or a few extra flavours, you could add any of the following as extra toppings... sliced red chillies (raw or fried), bean sprouts (lightly blanched), sliced or diced water chestnuts, julienned (or spiralized) carrots, tossed in a little rice wine vinegar and an optional pinch of sugar, crispy fried noodles if you're being naughty, toasted sesame seeds.
Leftovers (if you have any!) are really tasty the next day, heated and stirred into rice/cauliflower rice, or noodles/zero noodles with some vegetables - you may want to add a little splash of liquid, e.g. chicken stock, water, light soy etc. You can also freeze leftovers of the meat mixture.