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!
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.