This pretty dish is reminiscent of fresh spring greens that poke through the earth, and boasts a bit of crunchiness. Delicate and refreshing, serve it as a nod to the awakening earth.
Green as pale jade, Chinese lettuce is one of the most delicious spring vegetables available. This Chinese lettuce dish will whisk away winter doldrums and pique sluggish appetites. The addition of Sichuan peppercorns and chili peppers lends complimentary heat to the cool snap of the lettuce.
Chinese lettuce, also known as celtuce, is a traditional Chinese vegetable. Chinese medicine says that the nature of Chinese lettuce is sweet and cool with a slightly bitter taste. It is beneficial to the organs because of a diuretic effect*, and good for clearing the heat in the stomach. Modern studies show it contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, such as potassium and iron, which help flush the body of toxins and aid in the secretion of milk in nursing mothers. Those suffering from anemia should eat this dish often, and it can protect bones and teeth as it contains a fluorine element.
Ancient books of Chinese medicine caution those with weak vision or night blindness not to indulge in this dish too often.
Ingredients (serves 2):
1 Chinese lettuce/celtuce (about 300g)
1 tsp salt (5g)
2 tbsp sugar (30g)
2 tbsp vinegar (30g)
6 dried chili pepper (5g)
2 tsp Sichuan peppercorn/Chinese coriander (2g)
1⅓ tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil (20g)
Half of a green onion
1. Peel the Chinese lettuce, and slice it into lengths.
2. Stir the sliced Chinese lettuce with salt, sugar, and vinegar in a pot. Drain the liquid after 10 minutes.
3. Cut the dried chili peppers into pieces. Stir-fry the dried chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns with the oil in a wok over medium-low heat.
4. Turn off heat. Stir lettuce into wok.
5. Remove lettuce, roll and plate. Garnish with onion, peppers and peppercorns.
Dried chili pepper is less spicy than fresh peppers. Don’t stir-fry over high heat. Stir-fry until the colour changes a bit and use fewer peppers if they are fresh.
Photography by Hsuyi Shih