Asian Chicken (Un)Wrap
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?
“They” refers primarily to a popular Asian Restaurant chain. 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!
make it at home
A few years ago, I decided to try to replicate … or at least come up with a reasonable replica … of this dish. 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.
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 nicely. I cooked the chicken with the veggies that needed to be tender (carrots, mushrooms, onions) and then added the veggies that should 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, soaking the leaves in ice water to make them extra crisp and even 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.
unwrap the wrap
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!
- 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, pork or turkey
- 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 pea pods 1/4" to 1/2" slices
- 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 meat, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, carrots, onion, & mushrooms. Cook as you would to brown ground beef (reducing heat if it seems to be cooking at too high a temperature) until ground meat is no longer "pink." Drain off as much of the resulting liquid and discard.
- Return pan to heat and add celery, water chestnuts, 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 meat 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.
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 happy and (un)satisfied with my version.