This 5 Spice Salmon Lettuce Wraps (San Choy Bow) is a modern variation of the extremely popular Chinese appetizer. Many people love lettuce wraps throughout Southeast Asia and in Chinese and Asian restaurants of Western countries. Although, they originated from China, they quickly became popular in Southeast Asia with their own variations. Likewise, 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.
Types and Versatility of Lettuce Wraps
Similar to many popular dishes, there are many modern variations of lettuce wraps in addition to Chinese San Choy Bow. They include Thai lettuce wraps, Vietnamese lettuce wraps and many more. Besides, they are a superb low carb substitute for bread and as entrees or just as a light lunch. All in all, lettuce wraps are fresh, scrumptious and full of nutritional values. Moreover, 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. Served with 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, served on little gems lettuce leaves. Along with some cucumber, spring onion (shallots) and coriander (cilantro). Then drizzled with a ginger, garlic, lemon and coconut aminos sauce.
This gluten free recipe is also paleo, dairy free, soy free, egg free, nut free, corn free and low carbs. Nonetheless, you can also use any of your favourite lettuce like cos lettuce, butter lettuce or iceberg lettuce.
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. While today, they normally serve lettuce as a base for a fresh green salad. Alternatively, you can add lettuce 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 eaten 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) – well known 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” – makes up of more water than other types of lettuce. It 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” – they grow these lettuce for its seeds for extraction of oil used in cooking; and
- “Red Leaf lettuce” – they use them either raw in salad or added to braises, boiled or stir fried.
Nutritional Values of Lettuce
Lettuce leaves are green vegetables that have extremely low calories and very high water content. They are also an rich in essential vitamins and minerals. As well as numerous phytonutrients which help to enhance health and prevent diseases. Additionally, lettuce leaves are an excellent source of essential vitamins and minerals. They are not only rich in vitamin A, from its high amount of pro-vitamin A carotenoid, beta-carotene. Which transforms into vitamin A in the body. They are also rich in vitamin K, folate, and molybdenum.
Furthermore, they are also a good source of dietary fiber, manganese, chromium, potassium, copper, iron, phosphorus. And vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B7 (biotin, also called vitamin H) and vitamin C. Additionally, lettuce leaves are also rich in phytonutrients like lutein, zeaxanthin and quercetin.
Health Benefits of Lettuce
The overall health benefits of lettuce leaves may include:
- Support healthy eye sights and reduce risks of age-related macular degenerative diseases;
- Help lower high cholesterol levels;
- Assist in regulation of blood pressure;
- Reduce risks of cardiovascular disease;
- Promote healthy bones and teeth;
- Decrease neural tube defects in fetus during pregnancy;
- Support healthy skin;
- Help regulate blood cholesterol levels;
- Prevent osteoporosis;
- Reduce risks of certain types of cancer;
- Promote healthy central nervous system; and
- Lower risks of Alzheimer’s disease.
5 Spice Salmon Lettuce Wraps (San Choy Bow)
- Rice bran oil for pan frying
- 500 g skinless salmon fish fillets (preferably tail part), washed and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 12 little gems lettuce leaves washed and pat dry (you can also use cos lettuce, butter lettuce or iceberg lettuce)
- 2 medium Lebanese cucumber halved and cut into small cubes
- 2 medium carrots peeled and shredded
For the Sauce:
For the Garnish:
- 2 spring onions shallots, thinly sliced lengthwise
For the sauce:
- Heat up a small pot with ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, add garlic and ginger and stir fry on low heat until lightly golden.
- Add the coconut aminos, lemon juice and grated lemon zest and stir fry briefly. Turn off the heat. Add ⅓ of the spring onions (shallots) and coriander (cilantro) into the sauce, stir and mix well. Set aside to cool.
For cooking the salmon:
- Add the flour mixture into a large mixing bowl, whisk and mix well. Lightly coat the salmon pieces with the flour mixture using a kitchen tong, shake off excess.
- Heat up a non-stick frying pan with 2 inches of rice bran oil, and pan fry the salmon pieces for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Pan fry the salmon pieces in 2 to 3 batches. Set aside to cool.
For assembling the lettuce wraps:
- Add some cucumber and carrots to each lettuce leave.
- Divide the salmon pieces amongst the lettuce leaves.
- Drizzle some sauce on top of the fillings.
- Then garnish with the rest of the spring onion (shallots) and serve.