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

In the early days of The Perfect Pantry, I didn't know anything about food photography, so I never took pictures of the food I cooked. Every now and then, I like to go back and refresh earlier posts with new photos, as well as new links, text updates, and printer-friendly recipes.

Stir-fried garlic lettuce

Shao, pronounced SHOW (as in how or ouch).

Hsing, pronounced SHING.


Shao hsing wine.

Whew. That was the hard part. Cooking with this basic Chinese condiment is the easy part.

As a rule, you shouldn't cook with any wine you wouldn't drink, and you should never ever 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.

Shao hsing wine

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 uses that crispy iceberg lettuce you love to buy!

Stir-fried garlic lettuce {vegan}

From the pantry, you'll need: shao hsing wine, low-sodium soy sauce, sugar, kosher salt, mild red pepper flakes, garlic, sesame oil.

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.” 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
A pinch of mild red pepper flakes (optional)
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, salt and pepper flakes.

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.

More stir-fry recipes:
Vegetable fried rice, from The Perfect Pantry
Stir-fried corn and red pepper with ginger and garlic, from The Perfect Pantry
Veggie tofu stir-fry, from Minimalist Baker
Garlic ginger shrimp stir fry, from Steamy Kitchen

Lettuce isn't just for salads; it's great in stir-fries, too!

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


i've never seen this wine in my asian store - maybe i need to look more closely. but i love the recipe for the lettuce. missing you lydia!

Shao Hsing wine is the wine for all Chinese cooking. It's really the best. Lovely recipe and photo

I can't wait to try this. I'm a sap for cooked lettuce

I'm glad you updated this post because I think I missed it the first time! The lettuce in my garden is a bit too tender for this recipe, I think, but maybe I could make it with kale...?

I love/hate this stuff so much I wrote a song about it. Check out "Chinese Wine" at everyboy.net & lemme know if u like my Xiao Xing Shu.

I'm glad you learned how to photograph your recipes. Your blog is looking more delicious with every entry.

Looks like breakfast to me (hee hee).

Lydia – buying that brand of shao hsing wine in an Asian market here would have you at some point being politely spoken to about what is good and what is not so good shao hsing. Yes each and every time I go to buy either this wine or my rice wine someone at some point in the shopping trip will stop and ask why I chose the “lesser quality” cooking wines. When let’s face it there is an entire aisle devoted to cooking wines, which usually I’m going to be gently led to, at which point I’m faced with an entire wall of the stuff.

Since my Chinese is not all that good I go with what I know and for 35 years I have been buying the same stuff, it works and it ain’t broke.

I also think it maybe an east coast thing because when I first started buying shao hsing it is the same brand that you have displayed (rather a like brand) as I use the version of shao hsing that is manufacture by the same people that make my favorite rice wine.
Thanks for an recipe to use this wine I don’t use it often and I am trying to work in for a recipe for Black chicken.

Also - the photograph - beautiful

Very interesting recipe, and I don't think I've ever had cooked lettuce. I don't know how I missed buying Breath of a Wok either, must order that book!

Meeta, you'll find it on the shelf near vinegars.

Mary, I can't imagine cooking Chinese food without it.

Milton, Kalyn: cooked lettuce is a revelation. I love it on the grill, too (use romaine heads for that).

Julia, I'm sure this would be delicious with kale. A bit more assertive in flavor, so just add more garlic and soy.

Every Boy, I love your song! First one I've ever heard about shao hsing wine.

Pauline, thank you so much.

Joan, it was breakfast, and quite delicious...

Kim, in the market where I shop, most of the shoppers (and all of the employees) do not speak much English, so I have a hard time even asking for advice or help, let alone having people offer unsolicited advice. I'd much rather have someone point out the "good stuff". In this case, price is definitely an indicator.

I remember the days when you didn't have pictures. I'm enjoying them though, keep it up! :)

In regards to the lettuce, I didn't really know you could stir fry lettuce! I always thought it would wilt too easily.

I love this recipe - simple and flavorful. I'm also a shao hsing devotee, so this will be yet another good recipe to use it in. Ever since I braised lettuce a few years ago, cooking with lettuce has become exciting. Looking forward to making this!

This sounds highly addictive. I love the simplicity of it and the use of crispy lettuce - I would love a huge bowl of it right now!

You're dead right about using it to create authentic Chinese dishes. It's kind of an X factor. There are plenty of cookbooks that will say to use sherry in its place, but as you say, that end result will always seem to be missing something.

Hillary, I still have many posts to update with photos -- two years' worth! Stir-frying is a great way to jazz up iceberg lettuce, which holds up well to the heat.

Haley, the first time I cooked lettuce, I was surprised at how delicious it was. I love cooking romaine and escarole, especially, but iceberg is great in this recipe.

Lynda, it is highly addictive, and you can eat a whole head of lettuce at one sitting!

Neil, my cooking improved dramatically when I took a job that was near Chinatown in Boston. On those walks home every day, I could shop at the Chinese markets and try all types of new-to-me condiments. Using the real thing (shao hsing instead of sherry) makes all the difference.

We use Shao Xing wine to rid fish, crab, shrimps of their "fishy" smell :)

This sounds so good. And I've never made stir-fried lettuce before :)

When I first moved to southern Indiana from Connecticut many years ago, I was introduced to "wilted lettuce salad," another version of fried lettuce. First, bacon was fried, taken out of the oil and crumbled. Then some thinly sliced onion, lettuce, and vinegar were tossed in the still sizzling bacon fat. Finally the crumbled bacon was returned to the mix and it was served directly from the sizzling black iron skillet to the plate. I was told it was a way to make use of the tough outer leaves of home-grown lettuce. Yummy.

There are actually 2 types of Shao hsing wine. One for drinking and one for cooking. The one sold as cooking wine has salt added to it. It is ok for general dishes. However, if you want to cook drunken chicken, prawns or squab, then the drinking version gives a better and purer flavour.

Do you know if this wine is Gluten Free

Thanks, Lydia!

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