San Choy Bau


Preparation time 10 minutes, cooking time 10 minutes

Lettuce cups are fast food containers for healthy people. This simplified version of San Choy Bau is easy to make, but sometimes your iceberg leaves will separate into absolutely perfect cups and sometimes they will split. That’s life. If that happens, make mini/half cups as they work just as well and are even easier to munch into.


Ingredients • 1 iceberg lettuce (3–4 leaves per person) The following ingredients are for one person — multiply by the number of people you are cooking for:

  • 70 g (21⁄2 oz) sweet potato vermicelli or purple sweet potato vermicelli (available from Asian grocers)

  • 1⁄4 leek

  • 150 g (5 oz) organic lean beef or lamb mince

  • 1⁄4 teaspoon quality sea salt

  • 2 spring onions/shallots/scallions (straight stems with no bulb, white and green parts)

  • 1 cup finely sliced red cabbage

  • handful of mung bean sprouts or pea shoots/sprouts


Method Wash the iceberg lettuce, trim the stalk and very carefully take apart the leaves. Choose the best leaves for serving and place them onto serving bowls (I use mini dip dishes to hold them upright).

  • If using vermicelli: bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add the vermicelli and simmer the vermicelli until very soft (about 8 minutes, refer to the packet instructions). Strain in a strainer/ colander, rinse with cold water and set aside. Boil some water in a kettle as you will rinse the vermicelli again just before serving.

  • Next, wash the leek layers to remove any dirt and finely slice. Place a medium-sized non-stick frying pan or skillet on medium heat, add the mince and leek and cook until the meat has completely browned. Sprinkle on the salt, mix then transfer to a bowl. Rinse the spring onions in water, then thinly slice and set aside. Now rinse the cabbage in water and, using the same pan, lightly sauté the cabbage for 2 minutes (some water should be present to help the sautéing process).

  • Turn off the heat then mix in the spring onions and the cooked mince and stir. Take off the heat and allow it to cool down for a minute, while you rinse the vermicelli in hot water.

  • Place the mince, vegetables and vermicelli into the lettuce leaf cups, top with sprouts and serve warm.