Lettuce wraps (San Choy Bow) is an extremely popular appetizer throughout Southeast Asia and in Chinese and Asian restaurants of Western countries. It originated from China and quickly became popular in Southeast Asia with their own variations. Lettuce wraps are synonymous to Western breadless lettuce sandwiches, a wrap with lettuce as a replacement for bread. They are very popular school luncheons in the America and England since the mid-twentieth century until today. Similar to many popular dishes, there are many modern variations of lettuce wraps in addition to Chinese San Choy Bow, like Thai lettuce wraps, Vietnamese lettuce wraps and many more. They are a superb low carb substitute for bread and as entrees or just as a light lunch. Lettuce wraps are fresh, scrumptious and full of nutritional values. Favourite ingredients can range from minced meat, prawns, fish or tofu served with some vegetables or just vegans.
The most traditional Chinese lettuce wraps (San Choy Bow) usually include iceberg lettuce leaves, minced chicken or pork, water chestnuts, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, onion, spring onion (shallots), ginger, garlic and coriander. For my gluten free 5 Spice Salmon Lettuce Wraps (San Choy Bow) recipe, I am using pan-fried five spice salmon as my main ingredient and served on little gems lettuce leaves (you can also use any of your favourite lettuce like cos lettuce, butter lettuce or iceberg lettuce), along with some cucumber, spring onion (shallots) and coriander (cilantro). Then drizzled with a ginger, garlic, lemon and coconut aminos sauce. This recipe is also paleo, dairy free, soy free, egg free, nut free, corn free and low carbs.
History and Types of Lettuce
The common Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is an annual leafy green vegetable that belongs to the Asteraceae family. Lettuce was first cultivated by ancient Egyptians for their oil rich seeds more than 5,000 years ago. Lettuce leaves secrete milk-like liquid called sap when sliced, resulting in its name from Latin word Lactuca, meaning milk. Today, they are normally served as a base for a fresh green salad or added to sandwiches, lettuce wraps and soups. There are a variety of lettuce cultivars, namely “Leaf” (Looseleaf, Cutting or Bunching lettuce) – consisting of 3 types i.e. red, green, and oak and consumed mostly for salads; “Cos/Romaine” – typically utilized for salads and sandwiches and most commonly in Caesar salads; “Butter/Butterhead” (Boston, Bibb lettuce or Round lettuce) – recognised for its delicate texture and sweet flavour; “Little Gem” – a cross between cos/romaine and butter lettuce that originated in France and is sweet and crunchy; “Iceberg/Crisphead” – contains more water than other types of lettuce and has little flavour with less nutritional values than other types of lettuce; “Summercrisp” (Batavian or French crisp) – larger in size, slower flower initiation and has good flavour; “Celtuce/Stem” – grown mainly for its stem instead of its leaves and used mainly in Chinese cooking; “Oilseed” – cultivated for its seeds to be extracted for oil and commonly used in cooking and “Red Leaf lettuce” – generally suitable for either raw in salad or can be added to braises, boiled or stir-fried.
Health Benefits and Nutritional Values of Lettuce
Lettuce leaves are green vegetables that have extremely low calories and very high water content. They are also an abundance of essential vitamins and minerals and numerous phytonutrients which help to enhance health and prevent diseases. Lettuce are an excellent source of vitamin A (from its high concentration of pro-vitamin A carotenoid, beta-carotene, which converts into vitamin A in the body), vitamin K, folate, and molybdenum. Lettuce are also a good source of dietary fiber, manganese, chromium, potassium, copper, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B7 (biotin, also called vitamin H) and vitamin C. Lettuce leaves are also rich in phytonutrients like lutein, zeaxanthin and quercetin.
Health Benefits of Lettuce include: support healthy eye sights and reduce risks of age-related macular degenerative diseases; help lower high cholesterol levels; help regulate blood pressure; reduce risks of cardiovascular disease; promote healthy bones and teeth; prevent neural tube defects in fetus during pregnancy; help maintain healthy skin; help regulate cholesterol levels; may prevent osteoporosis; reduce risks of certain types of cancer; promote healthy central nervous system and lower risks of Alzheimer’s disease.