This is my adaptation of a Cantonese classic. It is widely believed that the practice of wrapping foods in lettuce leaves in China originated in the province of Guangdong, home to a special lettuce quite like iceberg, called bor lei sang choi in Cantonese. The first two words translate as “glass, ” to indicate that light is visible through the leaves. Lettuce itself, or sang choy in Cantonese, is a recurring symbol of new life and growth, and it is hung over the entry door of houses in Guangdong on the Lunar New Year.
Over the years, this method of wrapping foods in lettuce has spread beyond the borders of Guangdong, and today, cooks elsewhere in China serve baby clams, minced squab, shrimp and diced mushrooms, and other foods this way. The traditional Cantonese recipe calls for minced squab. Here, I have used minced duck in its place.
Deep-fry the noodles as directed, drain them well over a bowl, and then spread them in an even layer on a platter. Reserve.
To make the sauce: Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and reserve.
Heat a wok over high heat for 30 seconds. Add the peanut oil and, using a spatula, coat the wok with the oil. When a wisp of white smoke appears, add the ginger and stir briefly. Add the garlic and stir briefly. Add the water chestnuts, celery, bamboo shoots, shallots, and mushrooms and Stir-fry for 3 minutes, or until very hot. Add the duck meat, stir to mix well, and cook for 2 more minutes, or until well mixed. Make a well in the center of the mixture, stir the sauce, and pour it into the well. Stir and mix well for about 1½ minutes, or until the sauce thickens and the ingredients have a glistening coat.
Turn off the heat and ladle the filling atop the noodles. Place the lettuce rounds on a separate platter. Invite diners to serve themselves by scooping a heaping tablespoon of the duck filling onto a lettuce round, topping it with some of the fried rice noodles, and then folding the lettuce around the filling.
© 2009 All rights reserved. Published by Chronicle Books.