Recipe: Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duguid’s Lettuce Salad with Hot Beef Dressing

published Jun 12, 2015
Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duguid's Lettuce Salad with Hot Beef Dressing
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(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

Here’s the final recipe in our series of fresh ideas for lettuce. It was a lot of fun to page through some of our favorite cookbooks, looking for crunchy, crispy lettuce recipes that offered a new twist on this basic green.

And oh boy, we may have saved the best for last. This recipe may look a little strange on the surface, a little unexpected, but let me tell you: I ate this 10-minute stir-fry twice this week, and it’s on the menu for next week too.

(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

As we screeched to a halt in front of this recipe during our recipe peregrinations, questions arose. Is it a salad? A stir-fry? What is hot beef dressing?

The answer is simple: you stir-fry ginger and garlic with ground beef, then add some rich and funky vinegar and soy sauce, and let it bubble into a thick, meaty sauce. Toss it with torn handfuls of romaine, and the result is a partly wilted, partly crunchy, savory, meaty, aromatic dish of hot-sauced lettuce.

The authors explain that they came across this salad in Inner Mongolia, “a place where Siberian and Mongolian worlds meet and are cross-blended with the traditions of the people who have moved into the region from many other parts of China. We don’t know if this is a fusion dish of some kind, perhaps showing a Russian influence, but we do know that it’s unusual and very appealing.”

Appealing doesn’t even begin to cover it. It’s magical. And since this “vinegar-spiked beef sauce” comes together in 10 minutes flat, you can add “quick and easy” to magical, too.

Testing Notes

I was very intrigued by this recipe: What is hot beef dressing? And tossed with lettuce? Well, it was delicious in a very homey, satisfying way. It’s just a few simple ingredients, but all I wanted to do was keep eating the savory ground beef sauce that coated and soaked into the romaine leaves. Trust me on this one.

Christine, June 2015

Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duguid's Lettuce Salad with Hot Beef Dressing

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • About 4 packed cups coarsely torn romaine lettuce (see Note)

For the hot beef dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon

    peanut oil or vegetable oil

  • 1 tablespoon

    minced garlic

  • 1 tablespoon

    minced ginger

  • 1/2 pound

    (1 packed cup) ground beef

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    salt, or to taste

  • 1 tablespoon

    soy sauce, or to taste

  • 1 tablespoon

    Jinjiang (black rice) vinegar, or to taste

  • 1/2 cup

    warm water

  • 2 teaspoons


  • 1 tablespoon

    cold water

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    roasted sesame oil


  1. Place the lettuce in a wide salad bowl or serving dish and set aside.

  2. To make the hot beef dressing, place a wok or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Toss in the garlic and stir-fry for 10 seconds, then add the ginger. Stir-fry over medium-high to medium heat until slightly softened and starting to turn color.

  3. Add the meat and use your spatula to break it up so there are no lumps at all, then add the salt and stir-fry until most of the meat has changed color. Add the soy sauce and vinegar and stir to blend. Add the warm water and stir. (The hot beef dressing can be prepared ahead to this point and set aside for up to 20 minutes. When you are ready to proceed, bring the dressing to a boil.)

  4. While the beef dressing mixture is coming to a boil, place the cornstarch in a small cup or bowl and stir in the cold water to make a smooth paste. Once the liquid is bubbling in the pan, give the cornstarch mixture a final stir, add to the pan, and stir for about 1 minute; the liquid will thicken and become smoother.

  5. Taste for salt, and add a little salt or soy sauce if you wish. Add the sesame oil and stir once, then pour the hot dressing onto the lettuce. Immediately toss the salad to expose all the greens to the hot dressing. Serve immediately (or see Note).

Recipe Notes

If you use romaine lettuce, the salad will have good crunch as well as some wilted softer textures when you first serve it. We love the contrast. If you prefer a softer texture, either let the salad stand for 5 minutes before serving it, to give the greens more time to soften in the warm dressing, or use leaf lettuce instead of romaine.

Reprinted with permission from Beyond the Great Wall by Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford, copyright © 2008. Published by Artisan.

→ Check out the book! Beyond the Great Wall by Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford