Pork San Choy Bow is a combination of deliciously flavoured mince, mixed with finely diced vegetables and wrapped in crisp lettuce leaves. It’s traditionally served up as a starter, but armed with enough lettuce leaves, it can just as easily be a very healthy and wholesome meal on its own.
Nothing raises my husband’s hackles more than me making suggestions about his Chinese cooking (even though he provides much unsolicited advice about my cooking). Given his background and experience in Chinese restaurants, he does know a thing or two about Chinese cuisine.
So, whenever l suggest simplifying a recipe just a little, (he likes to add extra steps), l’m met with a loud and indignant, “CHINESE DON’T COOK LIKE THAT!” We had such a discussion about the steps involved in making san choy bow during one of our regular evening walks.
We no longer talk about food during our walks.
And did l simplify this recipe? Just a little!
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 7 mins
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 1 tsp garlic, roughly chopped
- 500 g / 1 lb minced / ground pork (not lean) (note 1)
- 1/4 cup finely diced carrot (1 small carrot)
- 1/4 cup finely diced celery (1 stick of celery)
- 50 g / 2 oz mushrooms, diced (shiitake or swiss brown) (note 2)
- 100 g / 4 oz water chestnuts, finely chopped (note 3)
- optional: 15 bamboo shoots, diced or sliced thinly (note 4)
- 1 iceberg lettuce (note 5)
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
Extras for Sprinkling
- slices of fresh red chili
- 1 – 2 spring onions, sliced
- Separate the leaves from the iceberg lettuce. Trim to form little cups (see photo). Place in the fridge.
- Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Heat oil over high heat in a medium frypan or wok.
- Add the onion and garlic. Saute until onion begins to soften (1 min).
- Add the pork. Saute until pork is almost cooked through (2 mins), then add the carrots, celery and mushrooms.
- Continue cooking for a further 2 mins or until the carrot has softened and there are no raw bits on the pork. Break up any large chunky bits of pork with a wooden spoon or fork. Add the water chestnuts and bamboo shoots (if using).
- Stir through the sauce ingredients. Continue to cook for a further 1 – 2 mins.
- Transfer the mixture to a serving plate. Sprinkle with slices of red chili and spring onion.
- Remove lettuce leaf cups from fridge. Place spoonfuls of the mixture into each cup. Roll up to enclose the filling and enjoy.
- I have also made San Choy Bow with chicken mince instead of pork. I lean more towards pork for its flavour.
- You could add any type of mushroom you like. I used shiitake. You could even add other vegetables too. Being our home recipe, these are the veggies we typically use.
- Water chestnuts provide a lovely freshness and crunch to the dish. They are found in the Asian section of most supermarkets. They are sold in 200 g / 7 oz cans / tins.
- Bamboo shoots are an optional extra. We add them because, like the water chestnuts, they are used for their texture rather than their taste. Bamboo shoots are also sold in tins but you may need to pay a visit to an Asian supermarket to buy them.
- The hardest part in making this dish is peeling away the leaves from the lettuce. While a firm lettuce has the crunchiest leaves, it also means that the leaves are tightly packed. You don’t have to stick to an iceberg; choose any variety of lettuce you like. Otherwise, trim the frilly bits from each iceberg leaf to create a nice cup shape. Don’t waste the discarded leaves; they can be used in a salad for tomorrow night’s dinner.