Saturday, 10 January 2015

Skinny San Choy Bau (Chinese Pork in Crispy Lettuce Wraps)

A delicious Chinese classic that's the perfect starter to a Chinese meal or can make a low fat, low carb lunch.

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.

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. If you would like the Thermomix version of this recipe, click here.

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.

  • 500g lean minced pork (5% fat) [615 calories], or 500g minced chicken breast [550]
  • 1 x 227g tin water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped (about 140g) [27]
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional) [16]
  • 2 tbsp (30ml) light soy sauce (or Tamari sauce for Gluten Free) [16]
  • 2 tbsp (30ml) Chinese rice wine (e.g. Shaohsing/Shaoxing), or dry sherry / dry white wine (check ingredients if cooking Gluten Free) [40]
  • 2 tsp cornflour/cornstarch [36]
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I use 1/2 tsp of each) [2]
  • 2 tsp oil of choice (or more, if not counting calories) [90]
  • 2 inches ginger root, peeled and finely chopped (or grated) [7]
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped [18]
  • 1 large red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional) [7]
  • 250g closed cup mushrooms, chopped into rough 5mm-1cm dice (e.g. chestnut, or ordinary white will do) [40]
  • 2-3 large dried shiitake mushrooms (about 15g dry weight), soaked according to instructions, stalks cut off and discarded, and caps finely chopped (or you can use fresh shiitake mushrooms instead, around 70g) [28]
  • 60g Szechuan/Sichuan preserved vegetables, chopped (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!) [40]
  • 5 spring onions - 4 sliced in 1/2cm lengths, plus one finely sliced to garnish  [17]
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar [2]
  • 50g oyster sauce (around 3 tbsp, or to taste - check ingredients if cooking Gluten Free: Wok Mei brand is GF, but many are not) [69]
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil (or more to taste) [45]
  • 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) [44]
See below the method for further optional garnishes

. Prepare the lettuce leaves - if you want to crisp them up more, put in a bowl of cold water for an hour before serving. If you have a food processor, you could use this to do a lot of the other vegetable chopping / preparation and save time.

2. In a bowl, mix the minced pork (or chicken) with the water chestnuts, sugar, soy sauce, rice wine/sherry, cornflour, salt and pepper.

3. Heat the oil in a good quality wok or frying pan, add the ginger, garlic and chilli and stir-fry briefly for a minute (be careful not to burn the garlic). Add all of the mushrooms, and stir-fry for a few more minutes until they have released their juices and any liquid has evaporated.

4. Add the minced meat mixture and stir-fry over a high heat, breaking it down until just cooked through. Add the preserved Szechuan vegetables, if using, and stir in.

5. Add the spring onions, rice vinegar and oyster sauce, and continue to cook for another minute or two, stirring in thoroughly. Add the toasted sesame oil, taste, and add more seasoning if desired. If the mixture is too dry (it should be nicely coated with a slight shine) add a tbsp of water, and stir in to loosen it slightly.

6. Serve with the lettuce leaves separately for guests to pile the meat into and roll up (with large leaves), or top with and eat.

Optional garnishes
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.

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