Barb Hodgens
Barb Hodgens

Barb Hodgens loves to cook with alternative, healthy whole food ingredients, with a focus on gut health. Barb has overcome her own gut health issues through healthy eating. Share your ideas, comments and photos at the end of this post :)

San choy bow

Parcels of mince wrapped in lettuce leaves.

Here we have freshly ground pork San Choy Bow. This beloved Chinese favourite is simply ground meat and chopped vegetables in a brown sauce, served on fresh lettuce leaves. It’s a light, fun, summery dish that’s incredibly simple to prepare and excellent for families and entertaining, where everyone can assemble it themselves. You can serve it as a starter or as a meal on its own.


Just like the official spelling of ‘San Choy Bow’ (san choy boa, sang choi bau), there aren’t definitive rules for what goes in the filling. The classic Chinese version consists of traditionally pork, but with a yummy Asian sauce, any freshly ground meat can be used. For a leaner meal, try ground turkey or chicken. 

There are also many options when it comes to the vegetables. We used a selection of predominately Asian vegetables for texture and maximum umami flavour, but feel free to substitute or add what ever vegetables you prefer or have on hand.

Water chestnuts have a neutral flavour but are important because they have a unique crispness that adds textural contrast to the dish. You can easily find canned water chestnuts in the Asian section of most supermarkets. 

Shiitake mushrooms are renowned for their flavourful chewy texture that is often described as umami. When cooked, shiitake release a broth that is a perfect base for san choy bow. Fresh or dried Shiitake may be used. If shiitake aren’t available, substitute with any mushroom, however the texture will not be the same.

san choy bow


In Chinese restaurants, san choy bow is served with crisp iceberg lettuce but the leaves are large and tend to crack when folded. We used baby cos lettuce leaves which are smaller and are the perfect shape and size to fit in your hand. Butter lettuce or mustard greens (available in Asian grocers) are also good because the leaves are soft for folding. Whichever you choose will taste amazing!

san coy bow


San choy bow filling can be made ahead of time and reheated. It will also keep well in the freezer for up to 3 months. Consider making a double batch and store it in the freezer for an easy mid-week meal. The filling is so tasty and versatile that you can use it in ways beyond lettuce leaves. Add it to a bowl of steaming rice or on noodle dishes or pack it in glass vacuum seal containers for meals on the go. 

san coy bow


4 as a main or 6-8 as a starter.


1 tablespoon sesame oil
500 grams pork mince
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh ginger grated
1 carrot grated
2 long red chilli, deseeded, finely chopped
1 small can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
8 fresh or dried *shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped
2 cups bean sprouts

2 teaspoons cornflour/cornstarch

¼ cup water
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
3 tablespoons shaoxing wine (Chinese cooking wine) or Mirin
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

To serve
Lettuce leaves (see notes)

3 spring onions, chopped
Fresh coriander, roughly chopped (optional)
2 long red chilli, deseeded, finely chopped or Birdseye for extra heat (optional)
Crushed peanuts (optional)


1.   To begin, prepare all the ingredients. *If you are using dried shiitake mushrooms, place in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for about 20 minutes until tender. The stems are edible but very fibrous so best to cut off to make chopping easier.

2.   In a small jug, mix the cornflour and water until lump free. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and mix. Set aside.
3.   Heat the sesame oil in a wok or skillet. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook for one minute.
4.   Add the ground pork and stir to break it up. Cook until it turns white.
5.   Add all the vegetables, except the bean sprouts. Cook for 2 minutes or until the carrot is softened and pork is cooked through.

6.   Add the sauce mixture and the bean sprouts then stir to incorporate.
7.   Put the lip on and cook for 2 minutes or until the shoots have wilted and the sauce has thickened.
8.   Transfer the meat filling into serving bowl and place on the table along with lettuce leaves, chopped spring onion and optional extras (peanuts, chilli, coriander)
9.   To serve, spoon the filling onto a lettuce leaf. Top with your choice of extra then wrap it up and enjoy.

san choy bow


san coy bow


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