Crisp gem lettuce leaves are filled with sautéed mushrooms & crunchy water chestnuts that have been tossed with sweet & salty hoi sin, ginger & garlic sauce then topped with pine nuts & green onions. Mushroom Water Chestnut San Choy Bau, or lettuce wraps as they’re more commonly referred, can be served as an appetizer for a Chinese meal or on their own as a light dinner.
Go to almost any Chinese restaurant in Australia & you’ll find san choy bau (spelt a multitude of ways, one most popular – sang choy bow) – Chinese lettuce wraps. Traditionally made with pork or chicken, in my quest to eat more vegetables, lose weight & reduce my consumption of meats & dairy, I switched-out the meat for mushrooms & water chestnuts. Good call.
I’ve also seen the meat version on a menu in a restaurant in Hong Kong which alludes me to thinking it’s not just a made-up Aussie thing, just like Americans have here. Due to Australia’s proximity to Asia, many of us grew up frequenting Chinese, Thai, Indonesian & Malaysian restaurants. San choy bau was, & still is, a favorite dish of mine when I’m back home. I’m not sure if people have heard of the reference here in the US so I’ve also referred to the recipe as ‘lettuce wraps’.
This time of year of course harks the start of the diet season marketing plug. I don’t know about you but I’m sick of listening to all the bullshit when it comes to dieting so I’ve been doing my own research & one thing is crystal clear: among all the information overload, hearsay & marketing crap out there about dieting & losing weight one thing is certain & concurred by all – vegetables reign supreme. Recently I’ve increased my veggie intake & significantly reduce my intake of animal products. The result? So far I’ve lost 6 pounds or a little shy of 3 kilos. It’s a positive start. And I’m enjoying the lack of restrictions & guilt.
Whether you’re wanting to lose weight or just want to eat healthier, delicious food is key. It certainly is for me. My lunch today is all veggies, legumes & homemade bread & as it’s the same thing I had yesterday, I know how fabulous it’s going to be, so I admit, I’m looking forward to it. It’s easier to stay the course when you have interesting & varied meals to look forward to. A bag of raw carrots & some haphazardly chopped-up celery isn’t a lot to look forward to. And it’s not sustainable.
I’ve been eating a version of this recipe since I was a young girl & I didn’t miss the exclusion of meat one bit. Try it & see what you think. Then report back okay? And if you’re wanting more vegetarian options, just go to the recipe drop-down menu & click “vegetarian” or “sides”. This roasted carrot & lentil salad is one of our more popular. And I love these shrimp & water chestnut dumplings.
A PINTEREST PIC TO SHARE
- 1 (or 2) little gem lettuce (or small romaine, cos or butter lettuce would also work)
- 1 tablespoon canola or peanut oil
- 1 lb (453g) mushrooms, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tablespoons finely grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons dry sherry or Chinese cooking wine
- 8 green onions, trimmed & thinly sliced
- 8 oz (226g) can water chestnuts, drained & diced
- 3 tablespoons hoi sin sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (coriander), plus extra for garnish
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- Separate the lettuce leaves & place them in a bowl of cold water so the leaves are submerged.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Cook the mushrooms in 2 to 3 batches until browned, adding a little more oil if necessary & removing cooked mushrooms from pan before adding more. When all the mushrooms are cooked, chop them finely. .
- Add the garlic and ginger to the same pan with a little more oil if necessary. Cook, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes or until fragrant, still over a medium-high heat.
- Add sherry to deglaze the pan. Cook, stirring until sherry is reduced by approximately half.
- Add mushrooms, half the green onions, water chestnuts, hoi sin, soy & oyster sauce. Cook 1 to 2 minutes until warm.
- Spoon mixture into lettuce leaves & sprinkle with reserved green onions, cilantro leaves & pine nuts.