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Sang Choi Bao

December 14, 2013

Recently I visited a friend who cooked me a fabulous lunch of sang choi bao.

I had forgotten the wonderfully textural experience of biting into crisp lettuce leaves through to a flavour packed meat filling. It has been on Chinese restaurant  menus for eons, but trying to find out the history of this dish proved elusive.

Basically, I couldn’t find out much at all! I searched high & low throughout my cookbook library, Googled it, Wiki’d it, all to no avail.

Wikipedia did have an entry but it was in Chinese. When I Google translated it, the entry was titled “Lettuce Sandwich” which went on to describe a western sandwich! All I learnt is that it there are a multitude of ways to spell it and that its usually made with pork but can be made with practically any meat that has been minced.

What strikes me is that vegetables are rarely eaten raw in China (for various reasons) and that the star ingredient of this dish is fresh crisp iceberg lettuce. The Chinese would usually stir-fry their lettuce or braise it in clear soup.

I imagine that sang choi bao was probably the creation of the Cantonese who were influenced by Western culture via Hong Kong. I wonder if the inventors of this oft bastardised adaptable dish knew they were ahead of their times! Wrapping things in lettuce is de rigueur at the moment!!

I have seen versions where the inclusion of rice noodles or vermicelli pads out the filling. To keep this low carb I have omitted it, but “anything goes” with this dish so have fun with it. I love the sweet, salty, crunchy & soft textures, do you?

This is my version:

100g water chestnuts
2 cloves garlic
1 5mm slice ginger
2 tabs oil ( I use macadamia)
1 stick celery
500g minced meat* (pork, chicken, beef, turkey is good)
4 dried shitake mushrooms (soaked in hot water for 20 minutes)
1 tab soy sauce or tamari
2 tabs oyster sauce
1 – 2 tabs XO sauce – make your own here
1 small red chilli
1 teas sesame oil
salt & pepper to taste
To Garnish
small handful of mint leaves
a handful of chopped peanuts (I used macadamias)
1 tab fried anchovies, crumbled (from the Asian Grocer)
1 tab fried shallots
1 head of crisp fresh iceberg lettuce
Chop the water chestnuts roughly by pulsing a couple of times. Set aside.
Add the garlic, ginger & chilli to the TM and chop on SP 8 for 5 seconds.
Add the celery and mushrooms and chop for a further second or two. Add the oil and sauté on SP SLOW at VAROMA temp for 2 minutes. Set aside.
Without cleaning the bowl add the mince and sauté on SP SLOW REVERSE, VAROMA temp for 8 minutes or until browned. Add the rest of the ingredients and sauces and continue to cook on 100ºC SP SLOW REVERSE for 2 – 3 minutes.
Break the iceberg lettuce up into cups and serve with the sang choi bao and garnishes on the table so everyone can help themselves!
*Mincing your own meat in the Thermomix is MUCH better.
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