Sung Choy Bao (Chicken Lettuce Cups)


You  can order these at most Chinese restaurants but they’re usually really greasy (think PF Changs). Don’t get me wrong, they’re bloody delicious, but heavy.

Back in the day, there was a restaurant on Tremont Street in Boston’s South End neighborhood, called Pho Republic. Their lettuce cups were the tastiest things ever. After they closed their doors, they published the recipe in a local paper. I cut it out and tucked it away in my Betty Crocker binder, that held ‘all things random’.

Stevo wanted wings for the Super Bowl (shocking, I know) but after a big lunch, I wanted something light, spicy, and tasty…. Bring on the lettuce cups!

The chicken should be diced into one inch cubes. Put it in the freezer for at least 20 minutes. Once it’s slightly frozen, put it in the processor in batches (1/4 lb per batch). Pulse the chicken 10 times, just until it’s chopped.

Next, let’s make a velvetizing cornstarch slurry for the chicken. It consists of cornstarch, Chinese rice cooking wine (or dry sherry), toasted sesame oil and soy sauce (recipe to follow).

Next, dice half an onion, 3 Tbsp of ginger, 3 cloves of garlic and 3 Scallions. Set aside.

Now it’s time to make the ‘special sauce’…. Sesame oil, soy rice vinegar, and chili paste. Let that hang, off to the side.

Let’s put it all together:


Prep everything ahead of time because it moves quickly! Here’s my onion, scallions, ginger and garlic, ready to go.



The special sauce. 😀


Boston bibb lettuce is rinsed and drying.


Chicken is browning.


Onions, garlic and ginger are cooking..


The hoison sauce and other ingredients are added.


The chicken goes back in to warm up.


Voila!! Scoop a little into each lettuce cup and there you have it.


Now for the recipe!

Serving of 7-8 lettuce cups:


* 1/2lb chicken breast or thighs, slightly frozen, cut into 1 inch cubes, procesed
* 2 tsp Chinese rice cooking wine (or dry sherry)
* 2 tsp soy sauce
* 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
* 2 tsp cornstarch

Once the chicken is processed, add the sauce, mix, and set aside.

1/2 diced onion
2 Tbsp diced ginger
3 cloves of garlic, diced
4 Tbsp scallions, diced

Sauce for chicken:
1 Tbsp soy
1/4 hoison sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp chili sauce
2 tsp sesame oil

Serving Sauce:
1 tsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp chili paste

Over medium high heat, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil.

Add the chicken and stir constantly until it’s golden brown (4-5 minutes).

Remove the chicken from the pan and add the onion. Sautee for a few minutes then add the ginger and garlic. Cook for another 3-4 minutes. Add the rest of the ‘sauce for chicken’ ingredients.

Add back in the chicken and cook until heated thoroughly.

Spoon the chicken into the lettuce cups and top with the special sauce.

There you have it!

From start to finish, it took about 30 minutes. Cleanup, on the other hand… Well I’m still working on that as I’m one super sloppy cook. Too bad the dogs don’t like random scallions on the floor. 😉

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