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- A Pinch Of Passion In Every Dish -

Explore Global Cuisine

AWESOME vegetarian lettuce wraps

The meat-free version of Chinese san choy bow. You never knew vegetarian lettuce wraps could be so delicious! Crumbled tofu makes the filling meaty while vegetables add lovely texture, smothered in a glossy, savoury sauce. Healthy food was never so delicious. And interesting. And easy. {Just 245 cal for a generous serving}



  • Firm or extra-firm tofu – Use a firm or extra firm tofu, not silken tofu. It needs to be firm enough so you can crumble it like mince / ground meat. Tub label will give you clues – it will be labelled as such. 😂 Also, give it a squeeze. It should feel like soft rubber, rather than a very fragile jelly (silken tofu).

  • Vegetables – Green beans, carrot and mushrooms are the mix I’m using today. Love the texture the green beans and carrots give to the filling, and the savouriness the mushrooms bring. Having said that, feel free to use what you’ve got! Any sauté-able vegetables will work fine.

  • Garlic and onion – Aromatics. Don’t skip these – they become more important in vegetarian dishes!


The sauce used for these vegetarian lettuce wraps is the same as the one I use for my classic pork san choy bow. It’s glossy and savoury, and each ingredient contributes to the flavour so please don’t skip any. This sauce, it can make anything taste amazing – even tofu! (There, I said it, go ahead and call me immature 😂).

  • Cornflour / cornstarch – This makes the sauce shiny and thickens it so it coats the filling ingredients beautifully.

  • Oyster sauce – A whole lot of flavour, jammed into one bottle! As the name suggests, the sauce is made with oysters – not that you would ever pick it. It just tastes savoury and sweet. Alternatives – Vegetarian options available these days, even at large grocery stores in Australia. Else, Hoisin works great (though you get a five spice flavour which is lovely, just different!)

  • Light soy sauce provides salt but doesn’t stain things a brown colour and has a mild soy flavour. Can be substituted with all purpose soy sauce but not dark soy sauce (too intense). More on different soy sauces here.

  • Dark soy has intense colour (this is what makes the sauce and stains the tofu a brown colour) and much more intense soy flavour. It can be substituted with more light or all-purpose soy sauce but the sauce flavour will be more mild, and the tofu won’t go brown.

  • Chinese cooking wine (“Shaoxing wine”) is an essential ingredient for making truly “restaurant standard” Chinese dishes. It adds depth of flavour and complexity into sauces. More info on Chinese cooking wine here. Substitute with Mirin, cooking sake or dry sherry. Non alcoholic sub – use 1/2 cup (125 ml) low sodium chicken broth/stock instead of water + Chinese cooking wine.

  • Sesame oil (toasted) – For lovely sesame flavour in the dish. Use toasted (brown oil) not un-toasted (yellow oil) as it has stronger sesame flavour. For fellow Aussies, toasted is the standard sesame oil sold in grocery stores. Un-toasted is harder to find (generally in health food stores).


Filling sorted, now here’s what you need to make the wrap. The peanuts and sriracha or other chilli paste/sauce is highly, highly recommended for a great lettuce wrap!

  • Lettuce leaves – Chinese san choy bow lettuce wraps served at restaurants here in Australia use iceberg lettuce. At fancy places, they cut into neat rounds! But honestly, any lettuce leaves where filling can be bundled inside, or have a natural cup shape works fine. Crispy (cos / romaine lettuce) or soft, pliable leaves (like butter lettuce).

  • Sriracha or other chilli sauce – Highly recommended. It just works so well to add a hit of spiciness to the freshness of the vegetable filling!

  • Peanuts – For an authentic san choy bow experience, chopped peanuts is also highly recommended!

  • Green onion – Sprinkle of fresh. Not as highly recommended, but it can be skipped if you don’t have it.

How to make Beef Chow Mein

  1. Mix the sauce ingredients in a small bowl in this order: cornflour/cornstarch and water first until lump free, then mix in everything else. Why? Because it’s easier to dissolve cornflour in less liquid than too much liquid.

  2. Crumble tofu – Drain tofu. Cut into 5mm/0.2″ slices then use your fingers to crumble into a mince. It will crumble with little effort. Don’t make the crumbs too fine, you can always break the tofu up more when cooking – just like cooking mince/ground meat! No need to press the tofu – There’s no need to press water out of the tofu using weights. The water contained in the tofu prevents it from being too dry.

  3. Filling – Using a large non stick pan, heat the oil over high heat then cook the onion, garlic and carrot for just 1 minute. Add green beans and mushrooms then cook for 2 minutes. The green beans should still be firm. This is good! The texture the green beans add to the filling is really nice.

  4. Add tofu and just toss through. Tofu doesn’t need to be cooked to eat it so for this recipe we just need to warm it through.

  1. Sauce it! Pour in the sauce then let it come to a simmer. As it heats up, the cornflour in the sauce will make it thicken. Stir for 1 minute or until it becomes thick and glossy so it coats the mixture nicely. See the photo in step 6 for what the filling looks like once the sauce thickens. Look at all that flavour on the tofu and vegetables! If the sauce reduces and thickens too quickly (which might happen if you’re using an extra large pan or an extra strong stove <– I’d love this problem), then just add a splash of water.

  2. Serving – Transfer the filling into a bowl. Put it out on the table with the lettuce leaves, green onion, peanuts and bottle of sriracha. Then let everyone make their own wraps!

  3. DIY lettuce wraps – Spoon filling into lettuce leaf.

  4. Toppings – Drizzle with sriracha, sprinkle with peanuts and green onion. Bundle / wrap (for soft lettuce leaves) or fold like tacos (for crisper lettuce leaves) then devour!


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