This unusual dish – oysters wrapped in iceberg lettuce - is a rare treat that is almost always reserved for family banquets. It is considered a classic, and with good reason, for it is refreshing, savoury and very satisfying.
The array of spices and seasonings enliven the robust sea taste of the oysters – even the iceberg lettuce takes on a deeper meaning.
I remember as a child using my fingers to dip into this very soft and sensuous platter of food. Fingers before forks, and before chopsticks as well!
The preparation requires a lot of chopping, but then there is only a simple stir-fry to do and you have a festive party dish.
Dried oysters can be found in Chinese grocers and supermarkets.
Soak the dried oysters overnight. Remove any hard bits. Drain and finely chop them. If you are using canned smoked oysters, you can skip this step.
Carefully separate the lettuce leaves and trim them all around to make attractive cups.
Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Swirl in the oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, toss in the garlic, ginger and spring onions and stir-fry for 20 seconds. Then dump in the minced pork and dried oysters and continue to stir-fry for 3 minutes. Now toss in the bamboo shoots, ham and water chestnuts and continue to stir-fry for 3 minutes, breaking up the minced pork. Sprinkle in the fresh corriander and pour in the chicken stock, oyster sauce, sugar, salt and pepper. Continue to stir-fry for 3 minutes more.
Turn the mixture onto a serving platter and surround it with the lettuce cups.
Each guest puts a helping of the smoky dried oysters and vegetables into a lettuce cup and rolls it up, then eats it with his or her fingers.
© 1998 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.