Celtuce (wōsǔn, 莴笋), also called stem lettuce, is a particular type of lettuce grown specifically for its thick stem. They’re commonly found in Chinese grocery stores, but rarely found grown organically in the Northeast. In this dish, the celtuce should be just cooked, with a slight crunch. It tastes fresher, and the texture is more pleasing to the palate. It’s a welcome change from your standard stir-fried greens with garlic!
10 dried wood ear mushrooms
1 large celtuce stem
1/2 red bell pepper (or 2-3 holland chilies)
1/3 cup stock (vegetable or chicken stock, or water)
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 thin slices ginger
1-3 dried chili peppers
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tsp cornstarch, combined with 1 tbsp water
First, soak the wood ears in warm water to rehydrate (this should take about 30 minutes). You can also do this in advance and store them in the fridge. When they’re fully rehydrated, rinse and cut them in half or thirds.
Next, peel the tough outer skin off the celtuce using a paring knife or peeler, and slice into thin ⅛-inch rounds on the diagonal. De-seed your peppers, and cut into small chunks.
Mix ⅓ cup stock with ¼ teaspoon salt (or salt to taste), ¼ teaspoon sugar, and 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine. Set aside.
Heat your wok over high heat. When it starts smoking, pour 2 tablespoons of oil around the perimeter. Add the ginger and fry gently for 15-30 seconds. Follow with the dried chili peppers, and cook for another few seconds.
Next, add the chunks of fresh peppers. Stir fry for about 30 seconds. Add the wood ears. Toss to cook for about 1 minute. Nothing should be browning except the ginger, which can be lightly golden.
Next, add the garlic and celtuce. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the pre-mixed stock mixture, and stir everything together. At this point, the celtuce and wood ears should be almost cooked to your liking—we like ours with a slight crunchy bite.
Stir up your cornstarch slurry to ensure it’s fully combined, and slowly stream it into the sauce while stirring constantly. Allow the sauce to thicken and coat the vegetables. This should take about 30 seconds. Plate and serve!
Recipe by Woks of Life.
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