I love informal “wrapped” dishes like this where a spicy stir-fried meat and vegetable mixture is scooped into fresh lettuce leaves and eaten by hand. You may substitute ground chicken, turkey, or beef for the pork.
1½ pounds lean ground pork, preferably butt or shoulder
PORK SEASONINGS (MIXED TOGETHER)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1½ tablespoons rice wine or sake
1½ teaspoons toasted sesame oil
3 heads Boston or leafy lettuce, stems trimmed, rinsed, and drained
2½ tablespoons virgin olive oil
SPICY SEASONINGS (MIXED TOGETHER)
3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
4 tablespoons minced garlic
1¾ teaspoons hot chile paste, or to taste
3 cups scallion greens, cut into ½-inch lengths
2¼ cups water chestnuts, blanched in boiling water for 10 seconds, drained, and chopped coarsely in a food processor or by hand
FRAGRANT SAUCE (MIXED TOGETHER)
5 tablespoons soy sauce
3½ tablespoons rice wine or sake
2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup good-quality reduced-sodium chicken broth or water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1½ cups pine nuts, toasted until golden brown (optional)
FIRST Put the ground pork in a bowl, add the Pork Seasonings, and mix together with your hands.
SECOND Lightly flatten the lettuce leaves with the flat side of a knife or cleaver and arrange around the outside of a large platter or in a separate basket for serving.
THIRD Heat a wok or a heavy skillet, add 1½ teaspoons of the oil, and when hot but not smoking, add the ground pork and stir-fry over medium-high heat, mashing and breaking it up. Cook until it changes color and separates. Drain in a colander to remove the fat, and wipe out the pan.
FOURTH Reheat the pan, add the remaining oil, and when very hot, add the Spicy Seasonings. Stir-fry until fragrant, about 10 seconds, and add the scallion greens and water chestnuts, tossing the mixture over high heat for about 1 minute. Add the premixed Fragrant Sauce and stir, letting it thicken. Return the cooked meat to the pan and toss to coat with the sauce. Add the toasted pine nuts, if using. Scoop the mixture onto the serving platter. Each diner spoons some of the cooked meat mixture onto a lettuce leaf, rolls it up, and eats it.
Chinese doctors credit water chestnuts with clearing heat from the body and nourishing the kidneys. A tea made with fresh water chestnuts and honeysuckle flowers is recommended for coughs and bronchitis.