Healthy, done in less than 30min, budget-friendly, super delicious and perfectly refreshing! San choy bow are also great appetisers - ideal for impressive entertaining or just a yummy mid-afternoon snack. For a low carb and delicious meal, pair this with some Vietnamese rice paper rolls - easy and interactive meal for the family.
You might think.. what does san choy bow even mean? Well, it's Cantonese and 'san choy' translates to lettuce and 'bow' translates to bun. So it pretty much means lettuce buns! I think lettuce wraps or cups sounds a bit better.
So turns out, there are soooo many different ways of spelling this dish. I've see san choi bao, san choy bow, san choy bau and so on. Nonetheless, the Chinese restaurants here in Sydney spells them san choy bow so I'll go with that.
- Oyster sauce is a commonly used Chinese condiment that adds a savoury (or umami) flavour to dishes. More on oyster sauce below.
- Soy sauce also adds the beloved umami flavour into this dish. It is much saltier than the oyster sauce, which adds another layer of flavour.
- Shaoxing wine is a Chinese cooking wine (really good quality ones can be consumed as a beverage) that is made with fermented rice. Similar to cooking with red or white wine, Shaoxing wine adds depth and aroma to a dish.
- Cornstarch/cornflour is super important here! This will magically thicken the tasty sauce so that it catches onto all the fillings and makes every bite delicious.
- Baby gem lettuce/little gem lettuce is perfect to hold the filling. Iceberg lettuce is my choice #2.
- Chilli is optional but does add a lovely heat to this dish.
Step by step instructions
Feel free to swap pork mince out for other mince such as chicken, turkey or even firm tofu! Tofu is a great vegetarian alternative and since it's quite bland on its own, it will just take on the great flavours of the other ingredients.
Best lettuce to use for san choy bow (lettuce cups)
Baby gem lettuce or little gem lettuce I find is the most ideal lettuce for this. They're basically just baby romaine lettuce. As you can see from the images, they're the perfect size to hold the delicious filling and its sauce really well.
Iceberg lettuce works great too as it gives a great crunch and I find, juicier. However, there's a little more work involved in using iceberg lettuce. You'd have to trim the edges (so that they don't flop everywhere) or requires tearing in half if the leaves are particularly big.
All in all, both are great to use for this flavourful recipe!
If having this as a side, complete your meal with this seriously delicious and simple chicken noodle stir fry! A healthy and nutritious meal that will not disappoint.
Can you freeze san choy bow (lettuce wraps)?
Absolutely! Well, only the filling part. You don't want to freeze lettuce. They'll go all soggy and the beloved crunch factor will be gone. So don't do it!
The pork and veggies filling keep well in the freezer for up to 3 months. Make an extra batch and store it in the freezer for a lazy day. You'll be glad you did! By the way, these fillings aren't just limited to making san choy bow! They taste delicious with a bowl of steaming rice or as topping for noodles too! Give that a try next time. It's super comforting and come on.. comfort foods are the best! Better yet, healthy comfort foods!
Tips for making this perfect every time!
- Pat dry the lettuce before serving. This is very important for two reasons: makes sure that you're hands are not dripping with water as you're about to take your first bite. Second, each bite will be super flavoursome and not diluted by the excess water.
- Use lettuce (whether you're using baby gem or iceberg) that doesn't have holes. You don't want the delicious sauce or filling to fall out! A little tear on the outer rims is okay.
- Definitely thicken the sauce by using a cornflour/cornstarch mixture. Without this, the sauce will be dripping everywhere no matter how intact or sealed your lettuce leaves are!
- Cut the beans and carrots to a similar size as pork mince. This will guarantee optimal munching experience. 😉 And of course, uniform size means everything will cook evenly.
Let me know what you think and/or if you have any questions, thoughts, drop me a note in the comments section below and I'll get back to ya. 🙂
San choy bow (lettuce wraps)
- 3 baby gem lettuce (little gem lettuce) or iceberg lettuce (note 1)
- optional: garnish with spring onion/scallions to serve finely sliced
Pork and vegetable filling
- 500 g /1.1lbs pork mince (ground pork) substitute: chicken mince or firm tofu
- 1 onion finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic large, minced
- 1 carrot large, finely diced or grated
- 150 g /5.3oz green beans finely diced, roughly 1.5 cups
- 1 tbsp oil sunflower or olive oil are fine
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp shaoxing wine substitute: mirin
- 1 tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp dark brown sugar
- 1 fresh chilli finely diced, any kind, birdseye for extra heat
- 1 tbsp cornflour/cornstarch
- ½ tsp soy sauce
- ¾ cup cold water (note 2)
- Saute onions, garlic and chilli with oil in a large non-stick pan or skillet. Cook medium-high heat until onion sweats and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.
- Push onions to the rims of the pan, add pork mince and saute for about 2 minutes on high heat or until meat is brown but not cooked through. (note 3)
- Mix shaoxing wine into the pan and allow the wine to evaporate. This will take about 1 minute.
- Add carrots, beans, oyster sauce, say sauce, sugar, pepper. Mix and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, no lid.
- Combine thickening mixture ingredients in a bowl, mix well and pour into the pan. Stir the pork and vegetables for 1-2 minutes on low heat.
- To assemble the san choy bow, scoop 1 heaped tablespoon of filling into 1 baby gem lettuce leaf and (optional) top with finely sliced spring onion/scallions and fresh chilli. Repeat for remainder filling.
- Serve immediately!
Other great Asian recipes you might like
- Chinese sausage fried rice - packed with flavour and too good to miss
- Chinese chicken and corn soup - wayyy better than what you get from Chinese takeouts
- Chinese broccoli (gai lan) with shiitake mushrooms - Chinese restaurant/yum cha favourite but BETTER!
- Easy pork wontons - super quick, super easy
- Pan-fried dumplings - juicy filling, crispy bottoms