Chinese lettuce recipe ideas. Go beyond raw lettuce in a salad. Add it to soups. Stir-fry with garlic.
Chinese lettuce is also known as 生菜, pronounced as sang choy in Cantonese and sheng cai in mandarin. Translated, it means raw vegetable. An apt name since Chinese lettuce is often eaten raw. It's scientific name is lactuca sativa. In some parts of the world, it is also known as 莴苣 (wo ju).
The lettuce is a very "old" vegetable in China. It has been cultivated for more than a thousand years. There are 2 basic branches:
Amongst the leafy branch, there are 2 varieties of lettuce commonly found in tropical Asian markets.
In the lowlands, the Chinese lettuce has long loose leaves with frilled edges, and does not form a tight round head like the common iceberg lettuce variety. This variety, also known as local lettuce, lacks the crispness of the iceberg lettuce. They are best used as wraps because their leaves are thinner.
The round lettuce can be found in the highland. These are crispier and best for garden salads and shredded for garnish and soups although they have been served as wrappers too.
Lettuce consists of nearly 95% liquid. It is crispy and refreshing when eaten raw. It is cooling, anti-inflammatory and aids sleep. Most importantly, it is low in calories. It comes as no surprise that it is also known as the weight loss vegetable.
It is also high in lutein and beta-carotene which is great for protecting the eyes.
The benefits of chinese lettuce is not limited to food, it is also good for skincare. I have a bottle of facial toner that is supposed to contain lettuce extract. I like it a lot as it is refreshing and does not irritate my skin. (My skin itches if the toners contain alcohol.) I wonder if I can make my own toner water with fresh chinese lettuce? Has anyone done that?
As mentioned, lettuce is most frequently used in salads or as side dishes. I like it as a wrap for more savoury fillings like ground beef, pork and chicken. It acts as a nice counter-balance.
I also like it shredded and added to fried rice and soups just before they are served. They are also used as "bedding" for stir-fried or deep fried dishes.
They are also very easy to use in Chinese soups. As they cannot stand long cooking, shred them thinly and add them to the soup pot last.
Tear lettuce leaves into pieces by hand instead of cutting with a knife. The edges of the lettuce can turn brown easily, so soak them in cold water before use. This will also prevent them from wilting, especially under hot conditions.
Lettuce leaves will turn brown when in contact with ethylene. So, it should be stored away from apples, pears and bananas.
The leaves are grown close to the ground so they should be washed thoroughly to get rid of any chemical residues.
Do not cook it for too long.