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September 13, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
The lettuce roll is just one of several dishes on Bamboo Terrace’s menu that brings traditional Chinese flavors to Columbia, co-owner and manager Celeste Chen says.
“Most Chinese food in America is Americanized,” Chen says. “It’s not real Chinese food, but this is totally Chinese flavor, more authentic.”
Where: Bamboo Terrace; 3101 W. Broadway, Suite 101
When: Mon. through Sat., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
The lettuce roll, an appetizer at the restaurant, comes in three varieties: chicken, shrimp and duck. The diced meat is stir-fried in a mixed paste with a colorful concoction of vegetables, including red and green bell pepper and onions. Once cooked, the mixed paste turns into a sauce that holds all the vegetables and meat together.
After the stir-fry is ready, the chef spoons it into lettuce leaves that serve as bowls. Patrons eat the appetizer with their fingers by folding over the lettuce edges and picking up the roll like a taco. Each order comes with two rolls, which are enough for a light appetizer or a crisp side dish.
The duck version of the appetizer stands apart from other lettuce rolls. The duck is smoked before being diced and stir-fried to give it a different flavor. The smokiness of the tender duck blends seamlessly with the sweet flavor of the mixed paste.
In the chicken variety, the sweet stir-fry sauce contrasts with the bitterness of the lettuce bowl. The tenderness of the meat combines well with the crunch of the water chestnuts and pine nuts. None of the flavors in the stir-fry overpower the dish or stand out as a main ingredient. Instead, they fuse into one savory appetizer.