Like I said before, I’ve been making a lot Asian-style foods lately. Part of that involves recreating Asian-American standards. Many of the more common dishes that people think of when they’re considering Chinese are loaded with sugar in one form or another. I’m not big on sweets, so making these dishes at home has allowed me to dial back the sugar, carbs, and calories. Here’s the version of lettuce wrap chicken that I’ve been making lately.
Chicken Lettuce Wraps
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 cup button mushrooms, diced
- 1 small or ½ large sweet onion, diced
- 1 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Sriracha
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 green onions for garnish, chopped (white and green parts)
- Lettuce for wrapping
There’s really not much to explain here. Toss the chicken pieces with corn starch and 2 teaspoons of the sesame oil and prep all of the vegetables.
Mix the sauce (hoisin, soy, vinegar, sriracha, remaining sesame oil) in a bowl.
Heat the wok on high and add the canola oil to the wok once it’s hot. I do this outside on my grill’s side burner. I get 15,000 BTUs out of this burner and can remove the diffusor. That gives me a steady flame. Although it’s nowhere near as hot as an industrial wok burner, it’s the best I can do at home. Plus, cooking outside means I don’t have to deal with smoke inside my house.
Once the oil starts to smoke, add the chicken and cook until browned on all sides. You don’t have to cook it through. Remove to a plate and set aside.
The weather was nasty, so I didn’t take a lot of pictures. Add the mushrooms and onions to the wok and cook until the mushrooms release their moisture. Turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic and ginger and cook until the garlic just begins to brown. Add the water chestnuts and deglaze the wok with the sauce mixture. Finally, add the chicken back to the wok and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Garnish with green onions, season with salt and pepper, and serve with lettuce (this is Boston lettuce).
Sometimes we eat this with just the chicken and lettuce. Other times we serve it over rice. If I don’t mind making a mess in the kitchen, I’ll fry up some of those cellophane noodles that usually accompany this dish at restaurants.
In this recipe, most of the sweetness comes from the hoisin sauce, which is just a soy-based BBQ sauce popular in China. The sweetness is balanced by the salty soy sauce and the vinegar. Sriracha provides the heat and the sesame oil adds depth of flavor. You could add or substitute oyster sauce, fish sauce, palm/brown sugar, or anything else that you think will alter the flavor.
You could also give this dish a more Thai-style sauce and garnish with fresh mint leaves, bean sprouts, chopped peanuts and lime juice.