A version of San Choi Bau

san choi bau
This is a version of san choi bau.

My understanding is that san choi bau is a dish of Chinese origin that consists of some kind of chopped meat with vegetables wrapped in crisp lettuce leaf for ease of delivery to your face hole. Genius. After a quick Google search I can also confirm without an inkling of a doubt that this dish can be spelt more ways than the average couple has sex. Fact.

San choi bau is a dish that I make often and has made it’s way into my life under many different guises over the years. Whether it be “end of the week whatever is left in the fridge san choi bau”, or “need something quick san choi bau” or “I’ve got some prawns and I’m going to make a rocking san choi bau” or the “I quite literally only have lettuce and rice and a few condiments san choi bau”. Whatever the case it is one of those dishes that I have no set recipe for – I just kinda wing it at the time, using whatever I have on hand to it’s fullest potential, helping it to realise it’s dreams and truly be the best it can be. But, as this is not Christian youth camp and I am about as far away as one could be from being a counselor, I’ll get on with proceedings.

I think one of the most important aspects of a good san choi bau is different textures; textures to make your face sing and your belly burble in agreement. I don’t even care if this doesn’t have meat in it as long as there are some good flavours and textures… chuck some extra rice in there and I’m happy as that Larry chap everyone seems to talk about.

This is how one may like to consume their san choi bau... well this is how our friend Connor consumed it anyway...
This is how one may like to consume their san choi bau… well this is how our friend Connor consumed it anyway…

This post comes about at the request of our friend Sil, who was lucky enough to join us for the meal that night… actually their was a few ladies of the female persuasion present that evening. I seem to recall that no one had told me it was ladies night so I inadvertently found myself wandering amongst them, communicating with them and even socializing with them. It was a true David Attenborough moment. This was a very strange feeling indeed.

I bathed myself very thoroughly afterwards, paying special attention to my eyes and ears so as to truly cleanse myself of the things that I had seen and heard.

Here is your san choi bau, Sil.

SIMPLE SAN CHOI BAU (serves 6 girls who need to get their energy up for a big night of talking and… well, just talking best I could figure)

500g pork, beef or chicken mince (heck, you could even use turkey mince if that’s your thing)
1 brown onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 capsicum (bell pepper), diced smallish
1 carrot, diced smallish or grated
1 zucchini, diced smallish or grated
½ cup peanuts, chopped
2 cups cooked rice… jasmine, basmati, brown. Probs not arborio… use your smarts kiddos
2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon chilli in soy bean oil
1 cup bean sprouts
2 tablespoons crisp eshallots
Other things that would work well in here include water chestnuts and bamboo shoots
Iceberg lettuce (not butter lettuce, frissee or mesclun mix. Iceberg lettuce), coriander, pickled cucumber and an Asian inspired dipping sauce to serve

• Heat a splash of oil in a large pan/wok over high heat
• Stirfry the mince, onion and garlic (stirfry = hot, hot, hot, OK people?) for 3-4 minutes or until mince is cooked, set aside
• Add the ginger, vegetables and rice to the wok and toss for another minute
• Add the mince back to the wok along with the sauces, all the time keeping that wok nice and hot. Rock that shit for one more minute
• Stir through bean sprouts and crisp eshallots
• Check seasoning, adjust if necessary
• Serve in lettuce cups, dip in sauce, put in mouth. Nom nom nom

Prawn san choi bau with squid balls for our last night in Iluka

This, my friends, is what I call san choi bau
This, my friends, is what I call san choi bau

This folks, is sadly my last post from Iluka. My seven days of love and sunshine are almost at an end. A week of a post a day (a PB for me too, I might add) devoted purely to our holiday eating is almost done. Soon the afternoons when I sit on the verandah of the holiday house, a bottle of liquid inspiration by my side, and type these words for you shall be gone. There will be no more early morning fishing trips, no swimming and skating all day long. No. I shall be returning to work. Reality is a harsh evil stepmother of a bitch. She is harsh like the face of an out back farmer with three-day growth. Harsh like the breath of a five-buck hooker. Harsh like the tongue of the salty old sea dog. Getting the picture?

I pack up all the things I deemed necessary to make my holiday complete; a few clothes, some books, my knife kit, I-pad, MacBook, IPhone, beard trimmer (don’t know why I packed this. I am well renowned for not trimming my beard very often at all), external hard drive, camera and vibra… er… nothing – all complete with chargers. Enough technology to be considered a NASA mobile command centre 20 years ago but today, bare necessities.

It is also quite possibly time for a proper wash to cleanse my self of this fishy aroma. For the past week I have been using fish for bait, catching fish and prepping seafood every single day. Nothing wrong with that, but to be sure I am starting to smell like the toilet door on an old prawn trawler.

So what do I have to help ease the pain of this impending reality of getting back to my other life (Seriously, it’s not that bad… I just love holidays as much as anyone else out there I guess)? A cleanse. A big fat healthy cleanse. No booze. No cigarettes. No meat on meat cook-ups. Just healthy eating, probably a green smoothie or two and other things conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Wish me good luck with that one.

But before that happens I will indulge myself in one more seafood cook-up. Mostly because I am damn well still on holidays for one more day and also we shall be joined by Jennee tonight after a week by herself at our real life home, and to quote her last Facebook status directly; “It has become very apparent that if Gray is not here then I would probably eat eggs on toast for dinner every night and always have an empty fridge! I think it may be time to welcome the family back to the fold…. I have run out of eggs Graeme.” So that girl is ready for some food loving too…

Stir-fried prawny goodness
Stir-fried prawny goodness
Jennee could not wait another second. Sometimes  as a food blogger you just have to work with what you've got...
Jennee could not wait another second. Sometimes as a food blogger you just have to work with what you’ve got…

SAN CHOI BAU with squid balls and prawns
300g king prawns, peeled, de-veined and diced into 1cm pieces (the fish shop only had cooked prawns so that’s what I got, but fresh would be my choice if available. They would need to be cooked with the onion though)
½ brown onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 carrot, grated
½ cup peanuts, chopped
1 cup cooked rice… jasmine, basmati, brown. Probs not arborio… use your smarts kiddos
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon chilli in soy bean oil
Other things that would work well in here include bean sprouts, water chestnuts and bamboo shoots
Squid balls, iceberg lettuce (not butter lettuce, frissee or mesclun mix. Iceberg lettuce), coriander and an Asian inspired dipping sauce/salsa to serve
• Stirfry the onion and garlic (stirfry = hot pan/wok, yeah?) for one minute
• Add the ginger, cabbage, carrot, peanuts and rice and toss for another minute
• Add the sauces and prawns and rock that shit for one more minute
• Check seasoning, adjust if necessary, serve in lettuce cups with squid balls, coriander and salsa

Squid balls
Squid balls

Squid balls
500g fresh squid, cleaned and diced
200g pork mince
½ cup cooked rice just to help it stick together. Breadcrumbs would work but I like rice
1 eshallot or ¼ onion, chopped
1 long red chilli, chopped
½ kafir lime leaf, chiffonade
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
1 teaspoon fish sauce
A good pinch white pepper
• Process everything except squid, pork and rice, to make a coarse paste. Set aside
• Now pulse squid, pork and rice in a food processor (the same one you used for the spice paste should do the trick) to make a coarse paste all of their very own. Don’t put it all into the food processor together and think you will achieve the same result. The squid and pork will end up pureed to shit and you still want a bit of texture in there
• Mix the spice paste and the meat paste together. Form into small balls or quenelles and fry in hot oil for 3 minutes, turning regularly
• Serve with the other stuff

Bye bye Iluka. It’s been swell… really swell