Crispy San Choi Bao

Happy New Year! 2018 has begun and as I’ve been lucky enough to spend the silly season in Sydney, Australia, it’s been hot and gorgeously sunny. We’ve been enjoying long, lazy picnics, lots of colourful salads and plenty of barbecues and grilled meats – not to mention the huge Christmas ham that we are slowly working our way through. As the new year begins, and resolutions are made, it’s a popular time to turn to lighter meals as the extra eating over the holiday period makes itself felt!

When I want to eat lighter style foods, I often turn to Asian cuisine – whether a deliciously spicy Thai Beef Salad, or as today, to one of my all-time favourites – hugely popular here in Australia, San Choi Bao. These wonderfully spicy little lettuce cups are so beloved they have almost taken on the status of a national dish. There is no agreed spelling and they are variously known as Sang Choi Bow, San Choy Bau and multiple other variations on the theme. However you call them, they are light, fresh, quick and easy to prepare and incredibly moreish.

This recipe will make enough for two or three people for a light meal, as is. To stretch it out either serve it with steamed rice, or as part of a larger asian inspired feast. It’s also very flexible. Try it with chicken mince for a lighter taste, swap the water chestnuts out for bean sprouts, add more or less chilli to taste (they should pack a bit of a punch). I love them with masses of fresh herbs but if you aren’t a coriander fan, just leave it out. I like to use baby gem lettuces as the leaves are a great size, but you can also use the more traditional iceberg lettuce.

Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients, it’s mostly things that are easily available. Get all the toppings prepared and the table set before you start, as they cook really quickly.

Let me know if you try this recipe in the comments below, or using the hashtag #daysofjay on Instagram. Happy cooking!

Crispy San Choi Bao

Crispy San Choi Bao

Yield: Serves 2-3
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Pork San Choi Bao with spicy, flavoursome pork, crunchy peanuts wrapped in crispy lettuce cups. This restaurant quality dinner can be on the table in minutes!


for the sauce:

  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 4 Tbsp / 60ml water
  • 3 Tbsp / 45ml light soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp / 45ml oyster sauce
  • 1 Tbsp / 15ml lime juice
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp / 30ml neutral oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ red onion, finely diced
  • 2 cm fresh ginger, grated
  • 500 g pork mince
  • 225g tin water chestnuts, drained and chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely diced

to serve:

  • 2 baby gem lettuces
  • washed and leaves separated
  • 4 spring onions, thinly sliced on diagonal
  • 1 long red chilli, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 50 g peanuts, roughly chopped
  • small bunch coriander
  • small bunch of mint


  1. In a small measuring jug, mix together the cornflour and water until smooth. Stir in the soy sauce, oyster sauce, lime juice, and sugar, then set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok over high heat. Add the garlic, onion and ginger and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add the pork mince and cook, breaking up any chunks, for another 2-3 minutes until the pork has changed colour.
  3. Add the water chestnuts, and carrot, then pour in the sauce, stirring until well coated and the sauce has thickened. Transfer to a large bowl and keep warm.
  4. Lay the lettuce leaves on a large platter (or individual plates). Place a large spoonful of the mince mixture in the middle of each leaf, then top with some spring onion, chilli, peanuts, coriander and mint, then serve warm.
  5. Alternatively bring all the topping ingredients to the table and allow everyone to build their own.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 3
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 942Total Fat: 64gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 38gCholesterol: 190mgSodium: 2492mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 6gSugar: 7gProtein: 63g


What should I do with leftover mince?

If there’s any leftover mince, (there never is in my house!) serve with loads of fresh mint, coriander and chilli, and some sliced cucumber for a spicy salad!

Do I have to make these spicy? I don’t like spicy food!

Not at all, adjust the spice to suit your tastes.

Can I use other types of mince?

Sure! Chicken, beef, pork or turkey all work equally well in this recipe.


Jay Wadams
Jay Wadams

Jay Wadams is a cookbook author and food photographer. Jay is the author of two cookbooks: 'Tasty' (2017) and 'Simply Summer' (2019). Based in Italy 🇮🇹 Germany 🇩🇪 and Australia 🇦🇺.

Articles: 280

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