Veggie Mince and Eggplant San Choy Bao

Happy Lunar New Year!

Sometimes referred to as the Spring Festival, the Lunar New Year (or Chinese New Year) is one of the largest events of the year across Asia. Festivities can last for over a couple of weeks before and after the actual date! Unsurprisingly, the Lunar New Year takes its food very seriously. Superstition and tradition play a big part in what can and cannot be eaten as well as how things are served up. Share the Lunar New Year spirit in your very own household with this New Year menu idea! For more menu inspiration and their meanings, take a Foods-Eye-View on the Lunar New Year.


San Choy Bao

San Choy Bao (in Cantonese, or Seng Chai Bao in Mandarin) is a dish of minced meat wrapped in lettuce leaves. Bao literally means “bag”, which symbolises wealth (e.g. bag of money) and the word for lettuce sounds like “rising fortune”.

Going vego

For some celebrators of Lunar New Year, the new year day is a meat-free day. While the meat makes a good source of protein, you should know that there are many ways of make a high-protein and satisfying meal without relying on meat. Think tofu, tempeh and lentils, all which can be mashed or diced up to resemble the appearance and texture of meat-based dishes. If you’re simply going meat-free and not completely vegan or vegetarian, eggs and dairy are fantastic ways of getting high quality protein and important nutrients such as healthy fats from eggs and calcium from dairy. **“Should you go vego” coming soon!**

Another health-smart reason to try a vegetarian version of this dish is to up its vegetable content (and therefore the fibre and vitamin content). The meats typically used in Asian dishes are higher in fat and only just enough veggies are added to give it a bit of colour. The single lettuce leaf also doesn’t cross the line to qualify as a serve of veg, kind of like the leaf or two in your standard burger. Mushrooms and eggplants provide the satisfying chunky meaty texture and all-important satiety while being packed with B vitamins and antioxidants that have heart-friendly and anti-cancer properties.


Of course, for meat-lovers you can still make this recipe and swap the tofu and mushrooms for 5-star lean beef mince for a low-fat meat version.

Have a feast with these lettuce cups filled with veggie-ful prosperity and happiness!


Serves: 4 (3-4 baos each)

Costs: $21.60 ($5.40 per serve)

Time: 20 mins


  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 4 cm ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks of spring onions, finely sliced
  • 2 cups (around 170g) assorted mushrooms, finely chopped (shiitake and button mushrooms)
  • 200g hard/firm tofu, drained and crumbled
  • 2 cups broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 medium red capsicum, diced into 2cm pieces
  • 2 medium eggplants, diced into 2cm pieces
  • 2 tbsp tamari sauce or soy sauce, salt-reduced
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • 12-16 lettuce leaves, washed and trimmed (iceberg or cos work well)
  • Chilli flakes or fresh chilli sliced, optional
  • 2 cups brown rice, steamed, to serve

Let’s get cooking:

  1. Heat one tablespoon of sesame oil in a non-stick frying pan or wok over high heat. Add shallots, ginger and garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring, until fragrant. Add mushrooms and tofu and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a plate or bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat remaining tablespoon of sesame oil in the pan. Add broccoli, capsicum and eggplant and stir fry for 8-10 minutes or until veggies are soft.
  3. In a small bowl, combine tamari, sugar and ¼ cup water. Set aside.
  4. Add mushroom mixture back to pan along with bean sprouts and prepared tamari sauce and cook until heated through. Remove from heat.
  5. Arrange lettuce leaves on serving plate(s). Spoon eggplant mixture evenly between lettuce cups and season with fresh sliced chilli and extra shallots, if desired. Serve with bowls of brown rice.


  • In step 2, you can shorten the cooking time of the veggies by steaming them. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes, then add ¼ cup water and cover to steam for another 3-4 minutes on high heat.
  • Choose lettuce leaves that are scooped in shape so that the filling stays inside. To make the lettuce leaves crisp, place them in iced water before cooking the filling and pat them dry when ready to use.
  • For meat lovers, swap the tofu and mushroom for 400g of meat mince (opt for the lean or 5-star varieties). Follow the recipe, breaking up the mince in quick slicing actions and cook until browned before transferring to a plate or bowl.

Nutritional information:

One serve provides over 3.5 veggies serves.

Per serve
Energy (kJ) 1437
Protein (g) 14.6
Total fat (g) 12.3
 – Saturated fat (g) 1.7
Carbohydrate (g) 37.2
 – Sugars (g) 10.3
Fibre (g) 11.7
Sodium (mg) 316
Calcium (mg) 206
Iron (mg) 3.3


Recipe inspiration by Healthy Food Guide


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