Lettuce was first introduced into China from Europe in the sixth or seventh century, and was regarded as a luxury item at first. Nowadays it is widely grown throughout the country as an everyday vegetable.
While lettuce is almost always used as a salad vegetable in the West, it is seldom eaten raw in China. Perhaps you would like to try the following recipe for a change.
The upright cos lettuce with its crisp leaves is best for this method of cooking (if you use round lettuce, then you will need more than one).
1 large cos lettuce
2-3 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt, or 1 tbsp oyster sauce
Wash the lettuce in cold water and discard the tough outer leaves. Tear the larger leaves into halves – never use a knife to cut them – and lightly shake off the excess water as you would when making salad.
Heat up a wok or large frying pan, pour in the oil and swirl it to cover most of the surface. When it starts to smoke, throw in the lettuce. This will make a loud noise, but don’t be alarmed, just stir vigourously until all the leaves are coated with oil, just as you would when mixing and tossing salad with dressing. Then add the salt or oyster sauce and stir a few times more; by then the noise will be more subdued and the lettuce leaves will have become slightly limp. Quickly dish it out and serve.
Make sure you do not overcook the lettuce, otherwise it will lose its crispness and bright green colour.
© Deh-Ta Hsiung and reproduced with his kind permission.