I love Taiwanese prawn lettuce cups, also known as xia song (蝦鬆). They remind me of a Taiwanese version of the Australian-Chinese classic, san choy bao (生菜包), only more decadent.
Recently, Carry generously shared with me his signature recipe for xia song. Carry is a Taiwanese-Austrailan guy famous for throwing elaborate themed Christmas parties for his many friends. He always serves prawn lettuce cups at his Christmas parties, and they are always one of his most popular dishes. Yet it is incredibly easy. He adapted the traditional xia song recipe to use an Australian party staple — potato chips — and has in the process hit on an amazing combination of textures and flavours. Try it and you will see what I mean.
300g green prawns, finely chopped
1 tablespoon soybean or canola oil
50g potato chips, any flavour, crushed
1 or 2 large iceberg lettuces
Step 1: Bang the bottom of the lettuce on a benchtop. This will loosen the core, which should then come out easily. Gently remove the outer leaves and use scissors to cut the leaves into six to eight neat cups. Wash and dry each lettuce cup carefully. (I like to keep the leftover lettuce and add it to fried rice or wonton soup — waste not, want not.)
Step 2: Chop or mince the prawns into small pieces, but not so fine that they form a paste. Crush the chips into fine pieces — I find it easiest to scrunch them while still in their foil bag.
Step 3: Heat a wok for a minute or so until it is hot. Add a generous tablespoon of oil, and then add the prawn meat. Stir-fry until it the mixture begins to go brown and crunchy, then add the potato chip pieces and continue to stir-fry.
Step 4: Spoon the prawn and chip mixture into awaiting iceberg lettuce cups, and serve immediately. Sit back and enjoy the compliments from your guests!