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Next Question: Chinese Lettuce Cups in the Bay Area?

In following the thread on Chinese Chicken Salad and its origins, I dug up this website (WARNING: It looks like yesterday's Chowhound.com):


If your eyes have recovered enough to read it, you'll see it asserts that while CCS was invented in LS, Chinese Lettuce Cups (Chinese Tacos, he calls them) were invented in SF. And that was pre-Dr. Atkins, yet.

I always assumed lettuce cups were a Hong Kong thing. Were they really invented in SF? By which restaurant? Who has them? Who likes them?

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  1. Who has them ? Chef Chu's has Lettuce Cups.

    Who likes them ? I like Chef Chu's Lettuce Cups.

    IIRC, there are two versions: chicken and shrimp.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Alan408

      The "traditional" version, if there is such a thing, uses squab, though chicken is often substituted where guilaos tread.

      "Toward a better world I contribute my modest smidgin;
      I eat the squab, lest it become a pigeon."

      -- Ogden Nash

      1. re: Alan408

        i had duck lettuce cups this past weekend so you can use duck too!

      2. Had a chicken version at Gold Mountain recently, not a particularly good version -

        I'd be surprised too if this is an SF thing. I'm away from my Kan's cookbook circa '70s, but I believe it has a recipe in it.

        I'm not fond of the chicken version, prefer squab soong, and the dried oyster type (ho see soong) even more.

        1. Long ago I heard them attributed to Cecilia Chiang of ex-Mandarin fame.

          1. Don't think it was invented in SF, perhaps the chicken version might have been poplularized by certain restaurant in SF. It's a fu-jianese dish which has been published in books since the 60's. Fu Pei Mei has a recipe in her cook book which is also circa '70s minced squab with lettuce cup. I believe the original version might have been minced squab with mu-shu wrapper -- pre-lettuce days in China.

            1 Reply
            1. re: theSauce

              Are you telling me Fujianese eat uncooked lettuce?

              I also have difficulty considering Fu Pei Mei to an authority on Chinese food. She left mainland China as a teenager, after growing up under Japanese rule (and speaking fluent Japanese), and in later life specialized in teaching Chinese cooking to Japanese students. She only learned to cook after she was married, and her career as a TV "chef" was a spinoff from her role in TV commercials pitching modern home appliances.

            2. There maybe a good chance that the Lettuce Cups were invented here because the lettuce in China is very different then the iceberg variety we have here. Chinese ppl usually cook their vegetables so to eat it raw - it must have been a fusion thing - either invented in Hong Kong or here. I have had it in both Hong Kong and Taiwan though - its always the Squab version. Unfortunately I think it may have been PF Changs that made the chicken version famous.

              1 Reply
              1. re: misspiggy

                There are ground chicken (tumble or soong) in lettuce leaf recipes in cookbooks that pre-date the existence of PF Chang. These are chinese-american homestyle cookbooks.

              2. I am not saying that there weren't recipes and that they didn't exist but it is really PF Changs that made the chicken version popular amongst the masses. Unfortunately PFC version is not very good.

                1. I absolutely love the lettuce cups at Betelnut in the Marina. Everything there is really good.

                  1. Dynasty Restaurant in Cupertino also has minced squab in lettuce cups that I had when attending a banquet there. It was quite good - but since I don't typically order the dish anywhere else, I don't have much of a comparison...

                    1. The first dish I had using lettuce cups was a Chinese New Year dish which we still make. Minced dried oyster, pork and mixed vegtables served in a lettuce cup.

                      Meaning, lettuce has a double meaning of life while the oyster has the meaning of good things up coming.

                      As my Mother told me it was a custom my Grandmother did in China. So I maybe it was something from the old country. I only wish I has someone to ask but I fear I longer have a living source to discuss this with.

                      1. Is there any other place that makes a seafood version, like R&G Lounge? I think about that dish all the time.

                        1. Great Eastern has a wonderful seafood version.

                          There is a recipe for "stir-fried ground beef with smoked oysters" which is then "traditionally" wrapped in lettuce leaves. It is in the Time-Life Foods of the World cookbook, published in 1968. I made this recipe several times to much acclaim, now nearly forty years ago. It is not served in the lettuce cups, but rather the leaves are presented on a separate plate and each diner wraps his own.
                          I suspect that the canned smoked oysters are a substitute for Chinese style dried oysters.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Joel

                            I would not substitude canned smoked oyster for dried oysters. Not even close. But if you do please post. Canned oyster would be too soft and oily.

                          2. They had a version at Golden Mountain in Hayward, where I ate last week. Can't remember what was in them, didn't try them, but they had them...