I’ve been trying to solve a mystery … one that regularly occurs at a very popular Asian restaurant and been known to happen at a few other restaurants. But this mysterious occurrence is has yet to happen in my own kitchen.
How do they do it?
And “they” refers primarily to P.F. Changs. I am infatuated with those Chicken Lettuce Wraps … that crisp lettuce that you fill with that warm chicken mixture and a drizzle of your choice of sauce? There doesn’t seem to be anything special about the lettuce but it holds together like a wrap should. It gets a little messy if I over-do the sauce (happens a lot actually) but it works!
A few years ago, I decided to try to replicate … or I should say, come up with a reasonable replica … of this dish. I knew it wouldn’t be the same because I wanted to make this dish as healthy and clean as possible (i.e. a lot less fat and salt) but I hoped to build enough flavor into it that it would satisfy my cravings for this dish.
And I did!
Lean ground chicken, a bunch of fresh veggies, a small amount of oil, garlic, ginger, crushed red pepper and a tangy/spicy sauce came together pretty nicely. I cooked the chicken with the veggies that I wanted to be tender (carrots, mushrooms, onions) and then added the veggies that I wanted to remain crunchy (celery, water chestnuts, pea pods).
All was great until we tried to wrap the darn things!
I’ve tried several different kinds of lettuce. I’ve tried soaking the leaves in ice water to make them extra crisp. I’ve tried layering a couple leaves together to add structure.
Nothing but a mess. And it’s not just because I put too much sauce on them.
So, after many attempts, we caved. We put the whole thing in a bowl. We switched to shredded cabbage because it holds up to the heat better. Sometimes we bring in the carbs and serve it over rice. It is so good.
BUT IT’S NOT A WRAP!
Asian Chicken (Un)Wrap
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1 1/2 pounds lean ground chicken
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon pepper, divided
1 cup tiny diced carrots
1 cup tiny diced onion
1 cup tiny diced mushrooms
1 cup tiny diced celery
1 can water chestnuts, drained and tiny diced
1 cup sliced (1/4″ to 1/2″ slices) pea pods
1 cup baby corn slices (1/2″ thick)
Shredded cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts or combination
Green onions, sliced
4 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1-2 teaspoons Sriracha or Tabasco sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
Combine sauce ingredients and set aside. Preheat a large sauté pan to medium-low. Add olive oil, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and crushed red pepper; stir for one minute. Increase temperature to medium and add the ground chicken, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, carrots, onion, & mushrooms. Cook as you would to brown hamburger (reducing heat if it seems to be cooking at too high a temperature) until chicken is no longer “pink.” Drain off as much of the remaining liquid and discard. Return pan to heat and add celery, water chestnuts and pea pods, baby corn, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes or until celery is tender but not soft. Pour half of sauce over chicken and vegetable mixture; stir until evenly distributed.
Serve hot over shredded cabbage, kale or Brussels sprouts or a mixture of the three. Drizzle with a little more sauce and sprinkle green onions on top.
Makes 6 large servings.
This is a very customizable recipe.
- No pea pods? Frozen peas that have been defrosted work great.
- Not a fan of baby corn or water chestnuts? Leave them out and bump up the amounts of the other veggies.
- Want more spice? Increase the crushed red pepper in the cooking and the Sriracha in the sauce. Red pepper, green beans, and bean sprouts could be added or substituted.
- Want a little more crunch? A few almonds or cashews sprinkled on top will do the trick.
- Need more substance? Serve it over rice.
If you can solve the mystery and figure out a burst-proof kind of leafy green that will hold up as a wrapping device, please let me know!
Until then, I will be (un)happy with my version.
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