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Dec 30, 2023

Stir-Fried Romaine Lettuce with Garlic Chili

This Stir-Fried Romaine Lettuce with Garlic Chili is a surprisingly crisp and refreshing hot dish that can be served as a side dish with stir-fries, soups, and braises. 

Stir-Fried Romaine Lettuce with Garlic Chili in a bowl.

This romaine lettuce stir-fry is a quick, easy, and wonderful way to enjoy a light and crispy vegetable side dish, especially when you are bored with salads. Plus, it's a great way to use that "about-to-wilt" extra head of lettuce you bought so you don't let it go to waste. 

This recipe is perfect for well-intentioned Costco shoppers who find themselves with an extra head of romaine. 

To make this dish, you just stir-fry the lettuce just enough to maintain crunch while heating it through. This dish is ready in just about five minutes! 

Stir-Fried Romaine Lettuce with Garlic Chili in a white bowl.

This stir-fried lettuce dish pretty much caused me to eat an entire head of romaine in one sitting. You see, if you stir fry lettuce, or any leafy vegetable such as lettuce, spinach, or bok choy, it reduces in volume, making it seem like there is less, and concentrating and sweetening the inherent flavors of the vegetable.

Stir-fried romaine is actually a great alternative to salad during the winter months. It's warming, really tasty, and the garlic and jalapeño add such a wonderful flavor to the dish. Ingredients include romaine, garlic, jalapeño, a tiny bit of chicken broth, Shao Hsing rice wine, soy sauce, salt, and white pepper. That's it. It's amazing how the flavors come together.

Stir-Fried Romaine Lettuce with Garlic Chili in a white bowl.

This bowl contains a one pound head of sliced romaine. Pretty cool how it reduces, right?

Raw Foods in Chinese Cuisine: 

While I'm not an expert, I know that Chinese food does not typically include many raw foods. Most Chinese food is either steamed, stir-fried, stewed, fried, or added to soups, including vegetables that we are accostomed to eating raw, such as lettuce. 

Actually, stir-fried lettuce is a popular Cantonese dish. In Cantonese, the name is a homonym to the word for "growing money" and symbolizes wealth and prosperity. It's also a "yin" food, light and refreshing and meant to balance "yang" foods, which are heavier and more fatty, such as pork and other meats. 

It's probably no coincidence that we in the U.S. have slangily referred to a handful of dollar bills as "lettuce" or "clams." 

Foods for Chinese New Year Celebrations:

Lettuce also has significance related to the Chinese New Year, which is coming up. Along with lettuce, the Chinese New Year feast includes many other meaningful foods. (Information sources: Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees by Kian Lam Kho and Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge by Grace Young.)

whole crispy soy chicken on a white tray.

One meaningful food for the New Year's feast is a whole chicken. It is symbolic of the reunion of the whole family as well as a proper beginning and an end. 

The chicken can be braised or roasted with ingredients such as ginger and/or soy sauce. 

Whole fried tilapia with scallions on a white platter.

Definitely add whole fish to your New Year's menu. It symbolizes well being and prosperity, with the assumption that you will have some left over for next year. It is also a homonym for "abundance" and "surplus" in the language. 

Also, a whole fish, with the head and tail included, can symbolize the whole family being together. 

air-fried spring rolls on a serving plate.

Fried spring rolls can symbolize wealth because of their resemblance to gold bars. They are supposed to bring prosperity in the future. 

The name, spring roll, can also symbolize a new beginning. 

Stir-fried clams with green peppers in a blue flowered bowl.

For prosperity, you can also serve clams (or scallops). In addition, the opening of the shells symbolizes new horizons. 

Potstickers resting on two chopsticks over a bowl of dipping sauce.

In addition, a plate of dumplings can symbolize money and prosperity because they are thought to look like gold ingots. 

Chinese New Year is celebrated over two weeks, beginning with a feast on New Year's Eve. The centerpiece for the table includes oranges and tangerines for wealth and good luck along with red envelopes containing lucky coins. 

Keep the stems with a few leaves attached to the fruit to ensure that relationships are lasting. 

Oranges still on the tree.

Other meaningful foods include shrimp (happiness and laughter), eggs (fertility), mushrooms (growing fortunes), noodles (longevity), and scallions (intelligence), plus many others.

Oh, by the way, for Chinese New Year, hard liquor symbolizes longevity. I can support that! 

Some of the foods are symbolic, and some of the foods have names that are homonyms in Mandarin or Cantonese for words that mean luck, wealth, or prosperity. 

This week the Sunday Funday group is sharing foods for Fortuitous Feasting from different cultures: 

Stir-Fried Romaine Lettuce with Garlic Chili on a white platter.

Stir-Fried Romaine Lettuce with Garlic Chili

Stir-Fried Romaine Lettuce with Garlic Chili
Yield: 4 servings
Author: Karen's Kitchen Stories
Prep time: 10 MinCook time: 5 MinTotal time: 15 Min
This Stir-Fried Romaine Lettuce with Garlic Chili is a surprisingly crisp and refreshing hot dish that can be served as a side dish with stir-fries, soups, and braises.


  • 2 tablespoons Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon minced jalapeño chili, with or without seeds
  • 1 medium head of romaine, washed, dried thoroughly, and cut crosswise into one inch-wide pieces (about 1 pound)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper


  1. Combine the rice wine, broth, and soy sauce in a small bowl.
  2. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over medium-high heat. Add in the oil in a swirling motion, then add the garlic and chili, and stir-fry 10 seconds or until the garlic is aromatic. Add the lettuce and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
  3. Stir-fry for 1 minute, until the lettuce just begins to wilt. Swirl the rice wine mixture into the wok, cover, and cook for 15 seconds.
  4. Uncover and stir-fry for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until the lettuce is crisp-tender and bright green.

Nutrition Facts



Fat (grams)

7 g

Sat. Fat (grams)

1 g

Carbs (grams)

7 g

Fiber (grams)

3 g

Net carbs

3 g

Sugar (grams)

2 g

Protein (grams)

2 g

Cholesterol (grams)

0 mg
Romain, lettuce
Did you make this recipe?
Tag on instagram and hashtag it #karenskitchenstories

This post was originally published January, 2016 and updated December, 2023. Recipe adapted from Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge by Grace Young. She also has an iceberg lettuce stir fry in her book, The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen

Would you like to comment?

  1. Talk about rockin' it!! Dang. Gorgeous stir-fry, and great post, Karen!!

  2. Here's to your good fortune Karen! Thanks for a beautiful post.

  3. I'm sure this is delicious. I love chargrilled romaine. My daughter is taking over the Chinese New Year celebration this year and has invited us to her house for the party. I love seeing how she has grown into a confident host for gatherings. I pray that 2024 is wonderful for you and yours Karen.

  4. The only way I have enjoyed romaine lettuce is in the raw form. This stir fried is a tempting option to try out. As you mentioned a good way to enjoy a warm salad. Happy New Year Karen.

    1. Happy New Year to you! If you have a wok, I recommend giving this a try =)

  5. I am fairly certain that I have never had stir-fried lettuce of any kind. What a neat preparation! And I love all of the good luck foods you mentioned. Thanks for joining in this week.

    1. Thanks for hosting! I'm looking forward to your giving this a try with your adventurous palate!

  6. Love this quick and delicious stir fry! Happy New Year to you Karen!


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