Chinese Lettuce Wraps

Poor iceberg lettuce.

It’s like the Wonder Bread of the produce department, isn’t it?  The red-headed stepchild?  Seriously, I don’t know of a single self-respecting foodie who would ever serve it at her dinner table.  Something about it just screams “1978”, when all our mothers served us salads of iceberg lettuce and Wishbone dressing, ala Carol Brady.

Happily, we’ve all grown up to expand our salad horizons.  Thanks in part to well stocked grocery stores (like Sendik’s, naturally), it’s easier to try a wide variety of more exotic greens like spicy arugula, bitter endive and raddichio, and gourmet mixed baby lettuces.

Lest poor, lowly iceberg go the way of the eight-track, there are still some instances where a substitution just won’t do…a hunk of crisp iceberg on a BLT for instance, or finely shredded iceberg on taco night.

Here is my absolute FAVORITE use for iceberg:  as a holder for these delicious Chinese Lettuce Wraps.  The leaves add the perfect crunch, and are sturdy enough to stand up to the savory ground chicken filling.

A quick tip about iceberg:  if you bought a head earlier in the week, and despite its charming cellophane wrapper, it’s gone a little floppy on you (hate that!), just fill a mixing bowl with ice water, cut off the root of the lettuce, and immerse the head in the water for an hour or so.  Drain it off and give it a good spin.  The cells of the lettuce will have plumped themselves up with the chilly water, and voila – your iceberg will be revived!

No need to thank me, I live for this stuff.

CHINESE LETTUCE WRAPS

Serves: 6

Adapted from SAVEUR.com

  • 1 ½ lbs. ground chicken (regular or breast meat, or a combination of the two)
  • 3-4 large shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and finely diced (very finely, and your kids will never even know they’re in there!)
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped, plus additional sliced scallion for garnish if desired
  • 2 T. soy sauce
  • 1 T. oyster sauce
  • 1 T. sherry
  • 1 t. cornstarch
  • ½ t. sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 T. vegetable oil or peanut oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can diced water chestnuts, drained
  • 16-20 iceberg lettuce leaves
  • 1 can crunchy rice noodles for serving (optional, but kids adore them!)

Place the ground chicken meat into a large bowl along with the mushrooms, and scallions.  Combine the soy sauce, oyster sauce, sherry, cornstarch, sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl, pour over chicken.  Mix well.  Let stand 15 minutes (mine went for about an hour and it was fine).

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add garlic and water chestnuts, cook and stir for  a few minutes.  Add the chicken mixture; cook, stirring and breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, about 5-8 minutes.  Transfer to a serving platter, surround with lettuce leaves.  To serve, spoon the filling in to the lettuce leaves.  Garnish with rice noodles and chopped scallion if desired.

By the by, we loved these wraps tonight with steamed jasmine rice and boiled edamame on the side.  ENJOY!

Featured, Fresh, Frugal, Fabulous | September 2nd, 2009