The one thing I both love and hate about Chinese food is the variety - if you can put soy sauce on it, you can eat it – nothing seems to be out of the woks greedy reach. The Chinese themselves have a saying that they’ll ‘eat anything with four legs besides the kitchen table, and anything that flies that’s not an airplane’, which ultimately leads to some pretty disturbing menu items: stir fried dog meat, grilled scorpion, hot pot chicken feet, barbecued chicks still in the shell…. (insert dry retch here).
But while a lot of the stranger food items for many people would border on disgusting, there is one little treasure that is so simple and so delicious it’s a wonder no one but the Chinese seem to have thought of it before: stir fried ice-berg lettuce.
I first came across this wee gem while working at my local Chinese restaurant in New Zealand. While the customers were busy ordering their Chicken Chow Meins and Black Bean Beefs (which I never saw being eaten in China in all my years there, ever) I was busy munching into some more authentic fare with the boss. And while I was undeniably sceptical at first, I soon came round to his way of thinking. This is definitely one for the repertoire.
Stir Fried Lettuce 炒生菜
Ingredients (for one large plate):
1 medium head of ice-berg lettuce, roughly chopped
3-4 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp sugar
Heat the vegetable oil in a work and add the garlic.
Fry for about a minute before adding in the lettuce, sugar and salt to taste.
Stir-fry until the lettuce just begins to wilt (I like it best still slightly crunchy), add a generous dash of sesame oil, mix a few times and serve with rice. So simple!
Notes: Probably not a dish that’s going to really fill you up on its own, it's best served alongside a couple of other dishes, in the classic Chinese sharing style.