Wednesday, March 10, 2010

not-so-thai lettuce wraps

So the other day, I had the opportunity to finally sit down and make some lettuce wraps. I love lettuce wraps. The satisfying crunch of lettuce mixed with the savory sweet flavor of the meat, vegetables, and condiments inside. When I go eat half-off late night, I always order these.

I had intended to make these last week, but a combination of school, life, and work had me eating from take-out trucks and granola bars instead. Fortunately, Spring Break ended up being the best excuse for actually making these.

Most of the recipes I found online had water chestnuts, mustard, and ketchup in it. I avoided those. Instead I used one that I found on But I didn't want to take too much time hunting for ingredients I didn't have. So here is my lazy girl version of the lettuce wraps.

Lettuce wraps

Prep time 40 minutes (only cause I'm so bad at chopping veggies)
Cook time 20 minutes (on a tiny pan! I'm still amazed I can make stir fry in it)
Serves 10 palm-sized wraps comfortably. Maybe even more (I lost track after a while).

vegetable oil for stir-frying
1 fat clove of garlic smashed and minced
1 heaping tablespoon of dried chili pepper (or 1 deseeded fresh red chili if you have it)
1/4 of a baseball-sized white onion chopped (though I'd personally prefer 1 shallot)
1/2 cup or more meat of your choice or firm tofu
1/3 of a monstrous carrot chopped small
4 baby bella mushrooms shredded
1 egg (can omit)
1/3 cup of cabbage
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoon of regular soy sauce
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of flour (this, the sugar, and 2 tbsp of the soy sauce should actually be plum and/or hoisin sauce, which I had stupidly left in someone else's room before I started cooking)
1 tablespoon of dried basil
1 tablespoon of black pepper
1 fresh iceberg lettuce head (it does make a difference)

Prep the pan. Drizzle oil into the wok/pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, onion, and chili. Stir for one minute until the onion sweat sweetly. If you're not in a dirty college dorm kitchen with shattered eggs on the floor and laundry going in the other room, it should smell like a Chinese restaurant – minus the fish.

Add some food. Put the meat/tofu, carrots, mushrooms, and cabbage. I used 1 cup of pork, because I like meat and pork tends to stay more moist in Asian recipes like this. As you stir-fry, incorporate some of the lemon juice, soy sauce, sugar, flour until the pork is almost all cooked through or until the tofu starts to tan in the delicious juices. If the ingredients get too dry, add more lemon juice or water.

Some egg. Set aside the food in the pan and crack in an egg. Break the yolk immediately and quickly mix in the egg with the rest of the ingredients, binding them together. Or don't add the egg and it'll still taste perfectly fine.

How does it taste? Remove from heat and do a taste test. Is it too salty? Too sweet? Too bland? I added the rest of the lemon here. And pepper. Stir on the heat some more to incorporate the new ingredients.

Eat. Peel off lettuce leaves either into a separate plate or as needed. I like to have smaller pieces of lettuce to munch on, so I tear them into 1/3 of the size. Place 1-2 tablespoon of the stir-fried filling a small bowl made from the lettuce leaf. Warp up and enjoy.

My verdict? It was good, the filling and the lettuce leaves tasted much better together than they did separately – but then again, I'm a huge fan of lettuce wraps. It would've been better if I had the grated ginger for frying in the oil and actual hoisin sauce. It took so long to chop up all the ingredients, but I still can't help but want to make these again (I even bought some water chestnuts to test out). Ate so much that I could barely move, and there was still more left for the next day.

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