Quick: How many things can you think of to do with iceberg lettuce? It certainly constitutes one of the most discredited and abject foodstuffs on the planet. Can you even buy a head at the farmers’ market?
Let’s see, you can cut it into wedges and serve it as a salad, dumping some thick thousand-island dressing on top, or you can shred it up and apply the same dressing. You can put it on a sandwich, where it tastes like almost nothing, but provides crunch. That’s about it, as far as lettuce and Western culinary endeavors go.
Lettuce with fu yu sauce at A-Wah will change your ideas about iceberg.
But leave it to Chinese chefs. Faced with iceberg lettuce, and with no salad and sandwich tradition, they cook it, and with fascinating results. At Hong Kong café A-Wah it comes in a green mound, the leaves slick and slippery, but still retaining their green color in a gradient of marvelous tints. Some of the leaves remain crunchy, while others lie limp and listless, but in a good way.
On top goes fu yu, a fermented soybean sauce that’s an agreeable shade of beige, and slightly on the chunky side. The combination is memorably tasty, and to all those Westerners who think you can’t cook iceberg, Chinese chefs reply, “Fu yu!” 5 Catherine Street, 212-925-8308