This is a very common dish in northeast China; however, the vegetable used in the original recipe is what we call ‘da tou cai’ (big headed vegetable) as nick name, which is normally considered as a kind of cabbage. :) It looks very similar to the round cabbage that you can find in the markets in UK, but the taste is somewhere in-between cabbage and lettuce — the leaves are thinner, crispier and more importantly, more juicy than cabbage.
For easing down my homesickness and ‘foodsickness’, I tried to cook round cabbage and round lettuce in the traditional Chinese way — the looks did ease my ‘foodsickness’, but the taste… a totally different dish.
One day, we guested at a friend’s place, she treated us ‘Northeast breakfast’. Her husband cooked this dish, I almost jumped :)))– the taste was very similar to the original dish, she said the romaine lettuce could achieve a more similar taste. — So this is where this dish is from, but if you are in China, try the original cabbage. :)
Stir frying salad leaves
Stir-frying or say cooking salad leaves may sound weird, but they are part of the popular ingredients in Northeast food. (I will talk about more on cooking salad leaves in tomorrow’s post.) Although this is a compromised dish, it is not strange in Chinese cuisine. Especially recently it is advised not to have raw vegetables, this is just perfect alternative to green leaves salad. :))
Although the way of stir-frying “cabbage” is more or less the same, the taste can vary depending on what seasonings you put in and what taste you like. This dish is a bit spicy — I think this dish is a combined northeast and sichuan taste, especially because of the strong influence of Sichuan peppercorn.
It is very quick to make, perfect for a weekday dinner dish, especially if you want to have another way of having green leaves. :))
The recipe: Chinese spicy stir fried lettuce
Two big romaine lettuce (Normally it is better to prepare a bit more than you expected, because after heated and salted, the lettuce ‘shrink’ a lot)
Crushed chilli, sichuan peppercorn, salt, oil, vegetable/mushroom/chicken essence /msg (optional)
Wash and chop the lettuce to round 4cm long pieces.
1) In a heated wok, pour in around 3 tablespoon of oil.
2) When the oil is hot, add in 1/2 teaspoon of crushed chilli, and 1/2 tablespoon of sichuan peppercorn. (However, depend on how much you like spiciness, the amount can be increase or reduced).
3) After the chilli and sichuan peppercorn being well fried, the flavor goes to the oil, you can remove them from the wok, otherwise just put chopped lettuce leaves in the wok.
4) Add a bit more than half of teaspoon of salt, and 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce. (and 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable/mushroom/chicken essence /msg, if you like)
5) Keep on stir frying on strong fire.
6) Once the lettuce is showing soften, turn off the fire, remove it to the plate. (probably it only takes around 3 minutes)
Apart from the spicy taste, I prefer the rest of the taste (salt, soy sauce..) light in the dish, and the leaves are better to be still crunchy and juicy to keep the original freshness, so do not leave it in the wok for too long.
It is good to go with rice and beer, can be good for a light summer dish. :))