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:
Stem or asparagus lettuce has a thick edible stem which is pickled and canned
Leafy lettuce which we are most familiar with. Big leaves with a very small stem. The representative being the iceberg lettuce.
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.
Health benefits of Chinese lettuce
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?
How to eat Chinese lettuce
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.
Recipe 1: Congee with Chinese lettuce and pork
200g lean pork
Half a head of Chinese lettuce, thinly shredded
Half cup of white rice
1 tbsp cornstarch
Salt and pepper
Wash and clean the lean pork fillet. Slice them thinly
Marinate the pork slices with some sesame seed oil, salt and cornstarch
Let it stand for 30 minutes or if possible, overnight in the refrigerator
When the pork slices are nearly done, drop in the shredded lettuce
Don't over cook
Recipe 2: Fresh fish and Chinese lettuce soup
This recipe is too easy. Assemble everything in a bowl and pour the hot soup in. Because the fish slices and shredded lettuce cook easily, it doesn't even need any additional heat. Do make sure the soup stock is piping hot.
200g fresh fish, thinly sliced
Half a dough stick (optional)
400ml of chicken stock
1 stalk of spring onion
A pinch of sesame seeds
Salt and pepper
Sesame seed oil
Wash the lettuce leaves and shred. Place in a big soup bowl
Cut the dough stick into small pieces and placed on top of the shredded lettuce
Lay the thinly sliced fish on top of the lettuce and dough stick pieces
Wash the spring onion and chop finely
Sprinkle the chopped spring onion and sesame seeds over the fish
Bring the chicken stock to a boil, season according to taste
Pour the hot soup over the fish slices and serve
You can pour the soup at the dining table in front of your guests.
Recipe 3: Chinese lettuce and tomato soup
This simple soup recipe contains only Chinese lettuce and tomato. Suitable for vegetarians. Enough for one.
8 leaves of Chinese lettuce
1 fresh tomato
400ml soup stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash the Chinese lettuce and drain for use. Cutting the lettuce is optional. They become very soft when cooked.
Cut the fresh tomato into small cubes
Bring the 400ml soup stock to a boil
Add the tomato cubes and cook for a couple of minutes till they are soft
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