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Shao hsing wine (Recipe: stir-fried garlic lettuce) {vegetarian}


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.

Try shao hsing wine in stir-fried beef, longevity noodles, steamed fish, Peking chicken, or a refreshing cold asparagus salad

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.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

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I agree on all accounts!

Very interesting. I haven't tried this. BTW, I once spent two weeks in Hong Kong and I was very proud of myself when I finally learned the pronounce the name of my MTR (train) stop!

And of course I meant to say "to pronounce."

Well, I confess to loving iceberg lettuce, too. Is there any green more refreshing or crisper in a salad? It gets a bad rap, but has its own merits, including some nutritional value. I'm certainly game to try this recipe with it.

I'll be interested to try stir frying iceberg. I've cooked other lettuce but as braises/soups. Do you think mirin is a good substitute for the rice wine?

What an interesting recipe! And quick! I like quick!
I can see why you would want iceberg, but I think I'll try it with my Romaine when it gets bigger...and dry sherry, of course. I need to find an Asian market....

Rachel, thanks!

Kalyn, I'm always afraid to try pronouncing things in Chinese because of the inflection -- but somehow in the markets I'm willing to give it a go. And I point a lot!

Susan, I'm a closet iceberg lover, and it holds up really well in stir-fry.

Callipygia, the mirin would give a slightly different taste, but you'd get the sweetness, which I think is the important things. Try it and let me know how it turns out!

Katie, I like quick, too. Romain would be great. Sherry will work. If you do find an Asian market, this shao hsing wine will last for a long time in your pantry.

Great. Always on the look out for new ways to use iceberg. Thanks!

I use mirin quite a lot in my cooking, but am going to hunt some of this cooking wine down at the market this week.

Oh, that recipe looks delicious. Great line about the wine...so true. I think I might modify it a bit and use bok choy instead of iceberg, although I agree with you about that too -- it's definitely underrated as a green.

Lydia, I confess I can't pronounce Shao hsing wine properly. But I can't cook without it now. :)

Mom used to make this all the time, I haven't fried lettuce myself in, oh about 10 years now. Its about time I make this dish again!

Lucy, this recipe will work with other kinds of lettuce or cabbage, too. If you can find this condiment in your market, do add it to your pantry.

Alex, bok choy would be great in this recipe, or romaine lettuce, or even celery.

Anh, I really do struggle with my pronounciation! But I shop so often in the Asian groceries that I have to keep trying!

Steamy Kitchen, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. This has become a real comfort food dish in our house. I love iceberg lettuce, and somehow when I cook with it instead of just eating it as salad, I feel like it's more nutritious -- even though I know it's just more crunchy!

didn't realize all these about shao hsing! I remember it goes very well with crabs (to be precise, the hairy crabs, a speciality in some area), which tastes like flower! Must be the fragant snow type!

hmmn... I really need to add this to my pantry. I'm Cantonese and I should be embarassed that I do not have this one yet. Maybe that's why my stir-frys do not turn out like what my dad makes.

Gattina, I love the sound of hairy crabs!

Veron, I think you'll recognize the taste of this when you cook with it. Though really, the memory of my own father's cooking is something I'll probably never be able to duplicate....

oh yeah, for that price... awesome! i'll be heading over to my Asian grocery store now and scout some out! thanks for the recipe, it seems like a good springy thing to eat

I will absolutely have to try this. I have a similar stir-fried lettuce recipe, except it has no garlic and it does have crumbled bacon. It's wonderful, and I bet this is too.

I'm so intriqued by that recipe! Thank you! I must try that.

Hummmm, iceberg ... I would not have figured that one. It must be good with garlic.

Connie, I've gotten totally addicted to lettuce cooked this way -- I hope you like it!

Christine, I'm not a bacon gal, but I can see that it would be wonderful with stir-fried lettuce. How about garlic and bacon???!

Sher, it's a simple recipe. Do try it!

Tanna, iceberg holds up really well to stir frying, but romaine works well, too.

Thanks for the recommendation, Lydia. When I go to the Asian, it's sometimes overwhelming trying to figure out what to buy. I'll be better prepared next time.

Lydia, if you like shao hsing, you gotta try shao hsing hua tiao wine then. It's a lil' more fragrant, and slightly more potent than the regular SH wine. I usually prefer the latter. You might like it :)

Susan, I still get overwhelmed, and I've been shopping at Asian markets since I worked for a publishing company that had its office in Boston's Chinatown (30 years ago!).

MW, I can't wait to try it -- what fun! Is it usually in the same section in the market? Is there a brand that you'd recommend? Thank you!!!

Lydia, its in the same aisle as the regular shaoxing wine section. Just look out for that couple extra words "hua tiao". (read the fine print for the alcohol content) Oo..you might wanna check out rose wine too..my god, its delicious, its mainly used for marinating chinese bbq meats. Hope this helps, cheers !:)

MW, thank you. Pantry readers -- especially those who live near an Asian market -- let's try this wine!

Yum! I've never had lettuce that way but I'm excited to try! :)

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