Make Ahead

Celtuce & Peppercorn Salad (StemĀ Lettuce)

October 24, 2015
4 Ratings
Photo by Jamie Pea
  • Serves 2 as a starter or 4 as a leafy salad
Author Notes

"You need another ugly vegetable in your life," says Food52's Lindsay-Jean Hard; that's celtuce, the crisp and lovely lettuce stem your local Chinatown will have. This Chinese salad recipe (yes, Chinese cuisine is surprisingly full of zingy salads) is refreshing and invigorating, with cool celtuce strips and tingly, pink Sichuan peppercorns. The dressing is a pretty universal vinegar-and-oil solution with one simple yet life-changing added technique: sizzling the oil with the aromatic ginger, garlic and peppercorns for just 30 seconds, before adding it to the vinegar, which boosts the flavour of your dressing in the most incredible way.

Each Sunday I post a Chinese salad recipe on based on classic Chinese recipes, which I tweak and standardize so it's all-natural (no MSG!), easy to make and enjoyable for the traditional and noob palate alike. Each recipe can be enjoyed as a "Western-style" salad, by consulting my leafy greens pairing suggestions. For this celtuce salad recipe, I recommend baby watercress, gem lettuce, Bibb lettuce and endive.

Give this delicious celtuce recipe a try and either serve it as-is as a cold appetizer or side dish; or share with everyone in the comments section what your favourite "base" salad leaves are to toss it with!

Here's the Food52 article on "Celtuce and What to Do with It": Pea

What You'll Need
  • 1 piece Celtuce (Chinese stem lettuce)
  • 3 teaspoons Chinkiang black vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese sesame oil
  • 3 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 piece of fresh ginger, equal in size to the garlic clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 pieces whole Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 sprig spring onion (2 if using the very thin, Chinese variety)
  1. Julienne your celtuce (see photo slideshow above for reference): wash the celtuce, slice off the leafy top and the dried-up base, then peel with a vegetable peeler; near the base you may have to go around it 3 or 4 times over to shave off the tougher skin. With a sharp knife make 3mm-thick diagonal slices, then chop these slices at a slight diagonal into 3mm-wide strips. Alternatively, use a vegetable grater with a thick julienne/matchstick attachment. Place the julienned celtuce in a mixing bowl, add the salt, then toss to combine.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar and sesame oil; set aside.
  3. Peel and finely mince the garlic and ginger. Heat up the vegetable oil in a small saucepan or frying pan. When hot (but not smoking), add the minced garlic and ginger as well as the peppercorns. Tilt the pan to let the oil pool up so the garlic, ginger and peppercorns can float evenly in the hot oil, and let it sizzle for 30 seconds but control the flame to prevent browning. Turn off the heat and pour it into the bowl of prepared vinegar (don't worry, it won't splatter!).
  4. Tip this bowl of warm dressing into the julienned celtuce, toss to combine, and transfer to your serving dish. Finely slice the spring onions at a diagonal (omitting any wilted, gnarly parts near the top) and scatter it over your celtuce salad.
  5. This celtuce salad may be enjoyed as-is as a salad, cold appetizer or side dish. Pairing suggestions with leafy salad greens to make it more of a "Western-style" salad: baby watercress, gem lettuce, Bibb lettuce and endive. Do share your favourite leafy greens pairing with everyone in the comments section below!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Jamie Pea
    Jamie Pea
  • Tom Bailey
    Tom Bailey

2 Reviews

Tom B. June 26, 2017
A couple things: while celtuce is unusual looking, I wouldn't call it ugly, and when you julienne it as described (and thank you for the clarity and photos!), it is really beautiful: light jade green and translucent. It loses that beauty when it's dressed, so next time I think I'll substitute rice vinegar for the black vinegar in an effort to preserve that beautiful color. The sesame oil may detract a bit, but I'm not willing to give that up, and I don't know what would substitute for it. Thanks for this recipe!
Jamie P. June 30, 2017
Great idea Tom! You're right about the sesame oil -- after having had another year+ of chomping my way through salads in northern China (or, as they call it here, liangban/"cold tosses"), I've found that not much more is needed than a generous pinch of salt and that pre-sizzled oil, to let the vegetables' natural flavor sing. Using clear rice vinegar is a good idea too, I'd just take an eyedropper to it to lift the flavor a bit, definitely don't want it too acidic. Share the results!