Stir-Fried Lettuce with Garlic Chili

Gung Hay Fat Choy
Every year to celebrate Chinese New Year, I get the itch to make my own Chinese food rather than order take-out. Not to toot my own horn, but I think I’m a pretty good cook. I can make just about anything that I come across with reasonable success. There are a couple of exceptions, and stir-frying is one.

Nothing is better than really fresh, really tasty Chinese food. But alas, it is not destined to come from my kitchen. I’m not sure what’s the problem. Any stir-frying I do is edible, but not great. I can roast the ducks, cook the soups, and even assemble and steam the dumplings, but I am sub-par at the stir-fry. My grandmother was amazing, so obviously it’s not genetic.

I realize that there are much bigger tragedies in the world, but this bugs me to no end. I am stubborn enough to not let it defeat me. I will master the Stir-Fry! In the mean time, my family will have to endure my trials and errors…

Below is a great recipe to help you ring in the Year of The Snake from one of the most well known names in Chinese cooking. May your efforts turn out better than mine!  

Stir-Fried Lettuce with Garlic Chili
from Stir-Frying To The Sky’s Edge by Grace Young
Serves 4 as a vegetable side dish.

Stir-fried lettuce is an auspicious dish to serve for Chinese New Year, birthdays, and graduations. The Cantonese word for lettuce, saang choi, is a homonym for “growing money.” In China, lettuce is a popular vegetable to eat in the summer months, enjoyed for its yin, or cooling, attributes. Romaine lettuce is well suited for stir-frying because the quick, intense cooking accentuates its natural sweetness.

2 tablespoons Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon chicken broth
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
3 medium garlic cloves, smashed
1 teaspoon minced jalapeno chili, with seeds
1 medium head of romaine, cut crosswise into l -inch-wide pieces (about 1 pound)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

In a small bowl combine the rice wine, broth, and soy sauce.

Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in the oil, add the garlic and chili, and stir-fry 10 seconds or until the garlic is fragrant. Add the lettuce, sprinkle on the salt and pepper, and stir-fry 1 minute or until the lettuce begins to wilt. Swirl the rice wine mixture into the wok, cover, and cook 15 seconds.

Uncover and stir-fry 30 seconds to 1 minute or until the lettuce is crisp, tender and bright green.


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