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Pork San Choy Bow

Made from crisp, cool lettuce cups with a delicious filling of spicy pork, San Chow Bow is one of the most popular dishes in Chinese restaurants. Super simple to prepare at home, this is a fun family meal for eating with your hands!

One of my favourite quick and easy dinner recipes, Pork San Choy Bow or pork lettuce wraps are as fun to cook as they are to eat. This classic Chinese starter makes for a healthy meal mid-week and is ready in a flash.

San Choy Bow in a bowl with rice.

What is San Choy Bow?

Sometimes known as San Choy Bau or Sang Choy Bow, this is a simple meal made from crisp lettuce cups filled with ground meat and crunchy vegetables.

It’s often served as a starter in Chinese restaurants, though I prefer to serve it as a main meal with a side of rice and steamed vegetables.

I often think of San Choy Bow as no-carb tacos, as you could also use the same method with a Mexican-inspired filling.

Ingredients

To make San Choy Bow at home, you’ll need the following main ingredients:

  • Ginger, Garlic and Chilli: These make up the base flavours of the filling.
  • Ground or Minced Meat: I like to use pork mince to make these wraps, but ground beef, turkey or chicken all work equally well.
  • Water chestnuts and Peanuts: Add a delicious crunch. Suppose you can’t get any water chestnuts. You can use sliced radishes (as I have in the pictures) as an excellent substitution.
  • Soy Sauce, Oyster Sauce or Hoisin Sauce: These sauces add a rich umami flavour to the filling. You can use oyster sauce or hoisin. The taste will be a little different but perfectly delicious.
  • Lettuce: Traditionally, San Choy Bow is served with iceberg lettuce. However, baby gem or bay cos lettuce are also great options and easier to keep fresh. It’s essential to use fresh lettuce leaves for a great crunch. If your lettuce leaves are a little wilted, refresh them in a bowl of ice water.

The recipe card at the bottom of the page contains the complete ingredient list and instructions.

San Choy Bow in a bowl in closeup.

How to make San Choy Bow

San Choy Bow come together in a flash, so it’s crucial to prepare everything before you start cooking!

  • First, dice your vegetables and prepare your equipment and other ingredients. Cook the rice if you plan to serve it alongside and have the table set!
  • Next, sauté the aromatics and vegetables, add the pork mince to the pan and cook until browned. Add sugar, soy and oyster sauce to the an and simmer until the liquids have reduced, then stir through the water chestnuts and peanuts.
  • Serve immediately with fresh lettuce leaves. It’s best to let everyone assemble their own at the table. This is one meal that you must eat with your hands.
San Choy Bow in a bowl.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Can I make San Choy Bow in advance?

Yes! The filling heats up brilliantly, so you can prepare this in advance if you like.

Can I make San Choy Bow with different meat?

Yes! Beef mince, chicken mince or Turkey mince are all superb! For a vegetarian option, try mushrooms (you’ll need plenty as they reduce a lot), Quorn or extra firm tofu.

Looking for more quick and easy dinner ideas?

Try my Spicy Thai Beef Salad recipe! It’s packed with fresh flavour. If you are after a real crown pleaser, my Honey and Ginger Chicken is always a winner.

Pork San Choy Bow Recipe

San Choy Bow in a bowl with rice.

Pork San Choy Bow (Chinese Lettuce Wraps)

Yield: Serves 2-4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Made from crisp, cool lettuce cups with a delicious filling of spicy pork, San Chow Bow is one of the most popular dishes in Chinese restaurants. Super simple to prepare at home, this is a fun family meal for eating with your hands!

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1 chilli pepper, diced
  • 3 spring onions (scallions or green onions), whites roughly chopped and greens sliced
  • 500g (1 lb.) pork mince (ground pork)
  • 1 Tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp oyster sauce or hoisin sauce
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice or rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 225g (8 oz.) can of water chestnuts, drained and roughly chopped
  • 75g (½ cup) peanuts, roughly chopped

to serve:

  • 24 lettuce leaves, iceberg lettuce, baby cos or baby gem

optional:

  • 2 handfuls of bean sprouts
  • Basmati or Jasmine Rice

Instructions

  1. PREPARE: Prepare all ingredients in the list, dice all vegetables and wash lettuce.
  2. SAUTÉ VEGETABLES: Heat the oil in a large frying pan, skillet or wok over high heat. Cook the ginger for 1 minute until fragrant, then add the garlic, chilli and whites of the spring onions and cook for 30 seconds.
  3. BROWN MEAT: Add the pork to the pan, break up any large chunks, and cook over high heat until no more pink is visible. Add the brown sugar and cook for 2 minutes, then add the soy sauce, oyster sauce, lime juice, water chestnuts and peanuts.
  4. SIMMER: Cook over medium heat until the liquids have almost entirely evaporated, then remove from the heat and stir through the spring onion greens.
  5. SERVE: Serve immediately. I like to put big bowls of filling, lettuce leaves and bean sprouts (if using) in the middle of the table and let everyone make their own - it's part of the fun.

Notes

Meat: Pork, Beef, Turkey or Chicken are all suitable for this dish.

Nut-free: Leave out the nuts. You may like to add some sesame seeds or similar for extra crunch.

No water chestnuts: If you can't find water chestnuts, use sliced radishes, as I have in the pictures.

Vegetarian Lettuce wraps: San Chow Bow can be made successfully with chopped mushrooms, extra-firm tofu or meat substitutes such as Quorn. Omit the Oyster sauce and use Hoi sin instead.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 510Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 51mgSodium: 1685mgCarbohydrates: 56gFiber: 10gSugar: 11gProtein: 26g

Nutrition is calculated automatically and may not always be accurate.

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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 🇦🇺.

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