I made these extra spicy extra ginger-y chicken lettuce wraps for my husband and a few of his friends the other night. I had to take my photos fast before things got a little messy. Lettuce wraps are the sloppy joes of the Asian world… they taste great but it’s a little bit of a challenge to get them into your mouth, and using a knife and fork is out of the question. The idea is to spoon a portion of the piping hot chicken filling into the center of a lettuce leaf, then quickly fold and roll it like a burrito and take a big bite before half of it falls out onto your lap or the lettuce rips. Both of those last two things will happen, by the way.
When you order these in restaurants you usually get iceberg lettuce. I think the crisp/tender leaves of Bibb, or butter, lettuce is more delicious, and more malleable for wrapping. Look for a large head so you can harvest enough large, wrap-able leaves. You can use the smaller inner leaves as little cups for one-bite sized portions. I actually prefer to eat these that way, the inner leaves are more sturdy and you avoid (most of) the mess.
My recipe is very similar to what you’d find at your favorite Chinese restaurant except that I’ve really bumped up the heat and the ginger flavor. If you aren’t such a fan, just use less.
- I large head of Bibb lettuce
- 1 lb ground chicken
- 5 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided
- 4 Tbsp grated ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 hot pepper (I used a Serrano) minced, seeds and all
- 1 can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
- 1 cup finely chopped colorful bell peppers
- 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts
- sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp Hoisin sauce
- 1 Tbsp chili paste (or sriracha sauce)
- 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1/4 cup water
- Carefully remove the leaves from the head of lettuce, Wash and dry them well, and set aside.
- Mix the sauce ingredients together in a measuring cup and set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a wok and add the ground chicken. Stir fry, breaking up the chicken into small crumbles, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the meat to a plate.
- Add 3 more tablespoons of oil to the pan and stir fry the ginger, garlic and hot pepper for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water chestnuts and bell peppers and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Add the chicken back into the pan and cook for 2 more minutes, then throw in the scallions.
- Shove the contents of the wok to one side and add the sauce to the other, Tilt the pan over the heat so the sauce can come to a boil and thicken. Once the sauce thickens, combine everything and heat through.
- Spoon the hot filling alongside the lettuce leaves, but do not wrap them ahead of time or the lettuce will wilt. Garnish with sesame seeds.