Stem Lettuce Salad (凉拌莴笋)
June 5, 2021  Print
It is starting to get pretty hot in Texas this time of year. So I have been making more cold/salad dishes to help us ease into the “sauna months.” In addition to this one, I will be posting a few more Asian summer salad dishes in the next few weeks.
Today I am introducing a salad dish using stem lettuce (莴笋), also known as celtuce, asparagus lettuce, or Chinese lettuce. Stem lettuce can be a bit intimidating to look at. Unlike other lettuces, where the leaves are the main draw, stem lettuce has a distinctive, thick stem with bushy leaves on top. Both the stem and the leaves are full of vitamins and minerals. The core is said to be especially beneficial for people with diabetes. Many grocery stores actually remove the leaves and sell them separately under the name “You Mai” lettuce (油麦菜). The romaine-looking leaves can be stir fried or blanched and made into salad by themselves. If you happen to get stem lettuce with the leaves attached, you can cook the leaves the same way as I did for Chinese Broccoli with Garlic-Soy Sauce.
After peeling off the pale green hard outer stem, the inner stem of stem lettuce has a light green, softer core. The core can be sliced, julienned, or cubed. It has a mild and subtle spicy taste with a crisp refreshing texture. I usually stir fry it or make it into a salad depending on the weather. Because of the mild taste, it blends well with pretty much any seasoning or herb.
For today’s salad, I first used salt to marinate the sliced stem lettuce core to remove extra water. The white vinegar preserves the stem lettuce’s nice green color. The ginger and Sichuan peppercorns add a kick to the final taste. The seasonings are quite flexible, so feel free to experiment based on your own preference.
Gluten Free, Low Carb, VEGAN
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 2-4 people
- 2 medium stem lettuces
- 1 green onion
- 1 small ginger (about 1/2 in or 1.2 cm long)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Remove the stem lettuce leaves and peel the outer pale green skin off the stem. Chop the inner stem into long sticks (about 1/4 in. or 0.6 cm. thick). Put the stem lettuce sticks in a mixing bowl. Add the 1 teaspoon of kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon of table salt), mixing well. Let sit on the counter for 10 minutes.
- Prepare other ingredients while marinating stem lettuce. Peel and mince the ginger. Chop the green onion into small pieces. Set aside.
- When 10 minutes are up, check the stem lettuce and remove any released water. Rinse with tap water and drain well.
- Put the stem lettuce sticks back into the mixing bowl. Add the 1 tablespoon of white vinegar, the 1/4 teaspoon of sugar, the minced ginger, and chopped green onions on top of the stem lettuce sticks.
- Heat a skillet under medium-high heat. When the skillet is getting hot, add the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and the 2 teaspoons of Sichuan peppercorns. When Sichuan peppercorns turn into a dark red or brownish color, take them out and immediately pour the hot oil onto the ginger and green onions, mixing well. (Optionally, grind some of the fried Sichuan peppercorns and mix in with the stem lettuce for a stronger kick). Add more salt to taste and enjoy!
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