Mama G. whips up a tasty stir fry dish

Lettuce CelebrateNV Cook 1 April May '16

Mama G. whips up a tasty stir fry dish.

Stir frying is a Chinese cooking technique in which ingredients are quickly fried in very hot oil sealing in the most delicious flavor as well as preserving texture. Home cooks as well as chefs love to stir-fry because it is so simple and completely awe-inspiring.

It’s speculated that stir fry began as early as the Han dynasty, while others believe it didn’t begin until the Ming dynasty, almost 1,000 years later. However old stir fry is, what makes it so distinct from other styles of cooking is the very high heat.

Stir fry in China is intended for a hearth stove. The round bottom wok is set in a hole in the stove that sits about 30 inches high. The heating chamber of a hearth stove is so efficient that it heats immediately and a meal can be completed within moments.

What is so fascinating is that the Chinese are so fuel-conscious, they know the exact amount of dried twigs and dried rice stalk to place into the stove for each meal, leaving not one trace of residue.


Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Yield: 4 servings, unless you eat it all whilst cooking. It’s that good!

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: ½ hour

Total Time: 45 Minutes

Ease of Preparation: Simple




1          pound ground chicken

2          tsp. minced fresh ginger

2          cloves garlic, minced

¼         tsp. red pepper flakes

¼         cup soy sauce

2          Tbs. cornstarch

2          Tbs. peanut oil.

½         cup drained & dried chopped water chestnuts

1          cup thinly sliced green onions

½         cup chopped peanuts

1          Tbs. sesame oil

4          Tbs. brown sugar

1          tsp. sambal

12        large cold little Gem or Butter lettuce leaves

Tip:     To ensure success, bring ingredients to room temperature


  1. Combine ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes.
  2. Blend cornstarch with soy sauce slowly until smooth.
  3. Preheat cast-iron over medium-high. Add oil, heat until hot. Add room temperature chicken into pan, do not stir immediately. Allow a golden sear.
  4. Add ginger, garlic, and red pepper.
  5. Add soy sauce mixture and stir-fry until sauce boils and thickens.
  6. Add chestnuts, onions, peanuts, sesame oil, brown sugar, sambal, and heat thoroughly.
  7. Continue to stir until sauce reduces and becomes thick.
  8. Divide filling evenly among leaves, then roll and secure with a green onion stem.
  9. Serve with Chinese mustard.

Tip: To ensure a successful dish, continue to stir from bottom up to maintain integrity of ingredients as well as a continuous stir until ingredients have become caramelized.


Tools for Success

Most of us at home are cooking on a residential range with average power. If you are using a gas range, I suggest a carbon steel flat bottom wok or my favorite, cast-iron. However, if you are using an electric stove-top, I highly recommend using a cast iron pan, as electric does not offer the cooking power needed to heat a wok.


Stuff that Matters

Preheating the wok. How to avoid under-heating or overheating. No shimmer of the oil or sizzle of the garlic? Wok is under-heated. Are you seeing wild smoke? Wok is overheated and the fire department is on the way. There goes dinner.


Technique Matters

To perfectly preheat the wok, place it on a burner and fire it up. Begin gently placing drops of water into wok. The moment the water evaporates within a second, the wok is ready. Remember, a shimmer and a sizzle is a desired result.

Every wonder why stir fry can taste a little off or bitter? The wok was overheated.

Every home cook is working from either gas or electric––each requires different heating techniques. If you see a recipe that tells you precisely how long to preheat your wok, wok away.

The Best Oils to Use for Stir Fry

The best high-smoking point oils for stir fry: peanut, safflower, and avocado. Grapeseed oil is fabulous as well, but costs more.

Mise en Place: The Secret to Cooking Like a Professional

I highly recommend mise en place. A French culinary term which means “put in place,” it boils down to setting up and organizing ingredients before beginning the cooking process. Then, all that’s left is to cook the meal.


I would love to hear from you. Let me know how you did on your celebrated lettuce wraps. Is there a specific recipe you would love to see in my next column? Let me know – I’m just a click away. Email me at





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