There are many variations on the spelling of this popular yum cha dish. San choi bao, sang choy bao, san choi bow, and so on. However you choose to spell it, there is no doubt that this classic is delicious. I created this version after much trial and error. It has a great depth of flavour.
We’ve included our method for preparing the iceberg lettuce cups, which many people find to be a little boring or especially tricky. Our method is simple and reduces the overall time it takes to prepare this dish.
The trick with this dish, and any stir fry, is to have all ingredients prepped and ready before the cooking process begins.
Filling will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days
1 head, large
Remove limp outer leaves and discard.
Cut the lettuce across the equator and discard the lower part with the root stem.
Carefully separate cup-shaped pieces from the upper part. Trim each cup to a similar size.
Transfer to a large mixing bowl filled with ice-cold water and soak in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.
Drain, being careful not to damage the cups.
Add to wok over hight heat.
Wait until first wisp of smoke appears and then proceed.
Garlic, finely chopped
Ginger, fine julienne
Add to wok and stir fry for 15 seconds.
Pork, ground or finely chopped
Add to wok and stir fry for 3 minutes, breaking up any clumps.
Shiitake mushrooms, chopped
Celery, finely chopped
Water chestnuts, finely chopped
Bamboo shoots, finely chopped
Large red chilli, deseeded, finely chopped
Small red chilli, deseeded, finely chopped
Add to wok and stir fry for 1 minute.
Palm sugar or coconut sugar
Light soy sauce
Dark soy sauce
Rice wine (shaoxing)
1½ fl oz
Xanthan gum (optional)
Whisk to combine.
Add to work and stir fry for 1 minute.
Scallions, thinly sliced
Coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Stir fry for 30 seconds. Turn off heat.
Using a slotted spoon, divide evenly between lettuce cups A.
Scallions, thinly sliced on a bias
Coriander leaves, whole
Much of the skill in this dish is in the preparation. The ingredients in E should be prepared carefully to ensure the best balance of textures in the final dish. Crunchy ingredients like celery, water chestnuts and bambo shoots, should be an even brunoise of ⅕" / 4 mm (not much smaller or larger), with the chili even smaller, and the mushroom pieces should be roughly double that size as they will shrink dramatically during cooking. Don’t be tempted to stir-fry the vegetables longer than 1 minute because they will loose their crunch.
We have achieved a more tender meat by including a braising process after step 9: add 500 g / 500 ml of water or stock and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated. If preparing this recipe in the last hours before service, use this extra braising time to prepare ingredients in E, which can be time consuming.
Be sure to use a slotted spoon and allow excess sauce to drain when putting sauce into lettuce cups in step q, as excess sauce is sure to dribble down guests’ arms. Serve with additional hoisin sauce on the side.
Prepare all the vegetables, especially those in E, and store in an air-tight container.