Shao hsing wine (Recipe: stir-fried garlic lettuce)
SHAO, pronounced shou (as in ouch).
HSING, pronounced shing.
Shou shing wine. Shao hsing wine.
As a rule, you shouldn't cook with any wine you wouldn't drink, and you should never ever buy cooking wine in the supermarket. And yet, here I am, telling you do that, to buy Chinese shao hsing (or shao xing) wine, because without it you will never be able to recreate authentic Chinese dishes.
According to The Encyclopedia of Asian Food, shao hsing wine, also called "yellow wine", is named for the town in the northern Chekiang province of China which produces it. Blended from glutinous rice, millet, a special yeast and local mineral spring waters, the best shao hsing (not what's in the bottle in my pantry, but I'll explain) is fermented for at least 10 years, and is used both for drinking and for cooking. Shao hsing comes in three varieties: shang niang, which is robust; chu yeh ching, which owes its pale green color and delicate flavor to young bamboo leaves added during fermentation; and hsiang hsueh (fragrant snow), which is sweet and pale.
What I find in my Asian grocery is not the type of shao hsing wine that is long-aged and mellow (and what would you expect from a $1.65 bottle of wine?!), but it is perfect for cooking and adding a touch of authentic flavor. You can substitute dry sherry in equal amounts for shao hsing wine, but it's not quite the same. Shao hsing keeps forever in the pantry, stored at room temperature.
Stir-fried garlic lettuce
Lettuce is an auspicious vegetable to stir-fry for the Lunar New Year; the word for lettuce in Cantonese, saang choy, sounds like “growing fortune.” Iceberg (which, I confess, I absolutely love) is most commonly used for stir-fries, but romaine or any crispy lettuce work well in this recipe. Inspired by a recipe in Breath of a Wok by Grace Yang, this dish serves 4.
1 Tbsp shao hsing rice wine or dry sherry
1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
3/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
5 medium garlic cloves, smashed and roughly sliced
1 lb iceberg or romaine hearts, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
1 tsp sesame oil
In a small bowl, combine the shao hsing wine, soy sauce, sugar and salt.
Heat a wok. Swirl in the vegetable oil, add the garlic, and stir-fry 5 seconds. Add the lettuce and stir-fry 1-2 minutes or until the lettuce is just limp. Stir the sauce, swirl it into the wok, and stir-fry 30-60 seconds or until the lettuce is just tender and still bright green. Remove from the heat and drizzle on the sesame oil.