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Quick to make, fun to eat: Why Chinese lettuce wraps will never go out of style

By: Bonnie S. Benwick The Washington Post -by Bonnie S. Benwick The Washington Post
April 19, 2017
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Pork and Mushroom San Choy Bau. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post.

Here's a meal that works for a household full of folks on different schedules.

Stir-fry the ginger-and-garlic-flavored mushrooms and ground pork whenever you've got a quorum for dinner.

It has a minimal amount of heat from small red chilies and a bit of piquancy from the combination of Chinese rice cooking wine and soy sauce. (Portions for young or timid eaters can be done without the chilies, of course.)

The mixture goes into crisp leaves of small-head lettuce and gets a last-minute helping of crunchy scallions; spoon in what the appetite demands.

Similar dishes at Chinese-style restaurants often goop up the mixture or make it too sweet; this one's got a nice savory balance.

The rest can be reheated in minutes, either on the stove top or in the microwave, for subsequent dinners or lunch the next day.

Serve with steamed rice.

Pork and Mushroom San Choy Bau

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Yield: 4 servings

1 1/2-inch piece ginger root 2 cloves garlic 1 or 2 small red "finger" chiles or bird's-eye chilies 3 1/2 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms 3 1/2 ounces fresh oyster mushrooms 4 scallions 2 tablespoons safflower oil 1 pound lean ground pork 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine Low-sodium soy sauce or dark soy sauce 2 heads gem lettuce, "artisan" small-head lettuce or 1 small head iceberg lettuce

Procedure:

Peel the ginger, then mince it. Crush the garlic cloves. Stem and seed the chiles (to taste), then mince them.

Stem the shiitakes; coarsely chop all the mushrooms or cut them into very thin slices. Cut the white and light-green parts of the scallions on the diagonal into thin slices.

Heat half the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the ginger, garlic and chiles. Stir-fry for 20 to 30 seconds. Add the remaining oil and the mushrooms. Stir-fry for about 3 minutes, or until they have released their moisture, then discard the garlic. Add the ground pork; stir-fry for 3 to 5 minutes, breaking up any large clumps, until it loses its raw look.

Add the Chinese rice wine and season with the soy sauce (to taste); reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes. The meat should be cooked through.

Meanwhile, separate the lettuce leaves, rinse, pat dry and place on a platter.

Transfer the pork mixture to a serving bowl. Sprinkle the scallions on top and serve right away, with the lettuce leaves.

Nutrition information per serving (using 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce): 250 calories, 27 g protein, 12 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 65 mg cholesterol, 290 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar.

Source: Adapted from "Harvest: 180 Recipes Through the Seasons," by Emilie Guelpa.

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