Monthly Archives: October 2011

Easiest Chinese Stir-Fry Recipe – Romaine Lettuce

A Bite of Spring – Romaine Lettuce

When my friend Emmy visited from Taiwan last year, and the subject turned to food, as it often does with me, I told her, “I miss Ei-a Vegetable but it’s almost impossible to find any in the US.”  (For those who’ve never heard of it, Ei-a Vegetable is commonly known as “A” Vegetable.  Taiwanese use the English letter “A” to preserve this vegetable’s Taiwanese pronunciation.)  Sensing my chagrin, Emmy hit me with this secret, “A Vegetable is a cousin of Romaine Lettuce.  You can just use Romaine for stir-fry.”  Suddenly I saw lettuce in a whole new light.

A Vegetable is basically baby Romaine lettuce. The leaves are a little smaller, and they’re a lighter green, but the taste is similar.  Using “Western” lettuce as an ingredient to make a Chinese dish is the essence of my blog (and my life in New York City) – “When East Meets West.”  Romaine is no longer just for Caesar Salad.  It’s related to my beloved home vegetable, it’s a fresh bite of spring, and it’s also the key ingredient in the easiest Chinese stir-fry recipe you’ll ever find.

Romaine Lettuce Stir-Fry Recipe


  1. 1 Romaine Lettuce
  2. 6 cloves of chopped garlic
  3. 2 table spoons of Canola Oil


  1. Cut Romaine Lettuce into pieces about 2 inches wide
  2. Wash Romaine Lettuce
  3. Heat up the wok (or sauté pan) for 30 seconds and add Canola Oil
  4. Add chopped garlic into the wok and stir fry for 1 minute
  5. Add Romaine Lettuce and stir fry for 1.5 minutes then add salt in the last 20 seconds before serving

A hearty thank you to Emmy for her great suggestion!

So go out there, get a head of Romaine, cook up this simple dish and let me know how you like it.  I hope this recipe will inspire you to cook many more healthy Chinese dishes.

Cut Romaine Lettuce into pieces about 2 inches wide.

Saute garlic in the wok for 1 minute.

How to Use a Wok: Top 10 Ways

Adam’s mom inspired me to write this blog entry.  When Adam brought her a wok from Taiwan, she wasn’t sure what to do.  Growing up in Asia, cooking with a wok was second nature to me, so this week’s post is all about de-mystifying the wok.

 Why Not Wok-n-Roll?

Many of my American friends think woks are only good for stir fry. And if they never learned Chinese cooking, they avoid woks like I avoid operating heavy machinery.  While a wok tends to be big and bulky, and almost never comes with instructions, it’s potentially the most versatile cooking vessel in your kitchen.  Personally I don’t buy any oversize kitchenware if it performs only one function, especially because I live in a small Manhattan apartment.  (I pay $50 a month for my refrigerator space alone.)  So everything in my tiny kitchen is multifunctional.  If you already own a wok or are thinking of buying one, you should know that woks are about much more than stir fry.  Here are some of the many ways I use my trusty wok.

Top 10 Ways to Use a Wok

1. Tossing Salad

The standard wok for home use is 12 to 14 inches wide and 4 to 5 inches deep. It’s the biggest salad bowl in your kitchen.  Put your vegetables in, toss them and serve.

2. Boiling Pasta, Dumplings, Seafood and Vegetables

Woks are big enough to cook any shape of pasta and are actually ideal for long noodles.  Instead of bending and breaking spaghetti or linguine, woks allow you to keep every pasta shape intact.  And because woks hold ample water, your pasta or dumplings won’t stick together.  Woks are also great for boiling over-sized vegetables (like cabbage or cauliflower) and seafood (like lobster or crab).

3. Roasting

I use my wok to roast pine nuts, peanuts, almonds, sesame seeds and coffee beans.  I can go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

 4. Making Soup, Stew, Fondue, and Any One-Pot Dish

Most woks are big enough to make a dish for a family of six.  Use your handy wok as an additional pot.

 5. Steaming Dumplings, Vegetables, Buns, Eggs, and Seafood

You can place a traditional bamboo steamer inside the wok to steam.  Or, you can use a steaming rack or a stand and place your plate on top.  Put some water in the wok, close the lid and you’re ready to steam almost anything.

Stand Inside A Wok

Rack Inside A Wok

6. Making Gourmet Popcorn

If you’re tired of microwave-popcorn and looking for gourmet flavor to jazz up your next party, here’s a quick tip on how to make popcorn using your wok:

Melt butter in your wok under low heat, add popped corn and stir until every kernel is lightly coated with butter.  Add sliced almonds, spices (or anything you desire), cover the lid and turn up the heat.  After your corn is popped, open the lid, sprinkle some salt and voila!

7. Smoking Fish/Seafood

Imagine smoking your own salmon for your next Sunday breakfast.  All you need is a wok, aluminum foil, wood chips and of course a nice slice of salmon.  Cover the inside of your wok with aluminum foil, toss in a handful of wood chips, place the smoking rack on top and put your fish or squid directly on the rack or on a plate.  Cover the lid and you’re ready to smoke.  Just remember to open your window before you open the lid to air out your kitchen.

 8. Deep Fry

Put oil in the wok.  Once the temperature is right (each deep fry has a different temperature so check your recipe), start frying.  You know the drill.

9. Heating Up Tortillas, Bread and Muffins

I actually use my wok as a mini-oven to heat up all of my bread products.  It’s much quicker than the oven and saves energy.

 10.  Stir Fry

While stir fry is not nearly as intimidating as you think, it deserves some special attention.  In my next blog, I’ll give you a Stir Fry 101 course and one of my easiest recipes to get you started.