In my opinion, the mark of a great lettuce wrap is when you want to ditch the lettuce and just attack the filling with a fork. Which is exactly what I wanted to do while I was eating these…and while I was photographing them. I snuck several bites. Boone tried to as well…and succeeded a few times.
There are a couple of great things about these lettuce wraps in particular.
First of all, they use brown rice. This basically takes your lettuce wrap filling and doubles it without sacrificing any flavor. I actually got this idea from my brother, Lyndon, and his wife, Amanda. They used to eat at a restaurant called P.F. Changs a lot and would get the lettuce wrap appetizer, ask for extra rice on the side, and mix it into their filling. So they effectively doubled their appetizer every time!
So that’s what I did here.
The second great thing about these lettuce wraps is that they include cashews. This recipe is kind of a mix between Cashew Chicken and lettuce wraps….and I really love both of those things….so in my opinion, that is an awesome mix to have. The cashews give the lettuce wraps extra flavor as well as texture.
Oh! I forgot about another particularly great thing…they only take 30 minutes to make!
An easy, quick, flavor packed meal.
So you start the lettuce wraps by bringing a medium pot of water to boil over high heat. Add a few pinches of salt to the water.
When that comes to a boil, you are going to add the brown rice. I used the “Uncle Ben’s Boil in a Bag Brown Rice,” because it only takes ten minutes to cook (and I like the little baggies…). You can use any quick cooking brown rice that you want as long as it ends up being a cup of cooked rice (about 1/4 cup uncooked).
Cook the rice according to the directions on the box. For “Uncle Ben’s” I just boiled it for 10-12 minutes and it was ready to go.
So while all that is happening, grate 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ginger.
Ginger tip–keep it in your freezer and just use it as you need it. You never need very much for any recipe, so it will always go bad before you use all of it. If you keep it in your freezer, you will always have some around!
Finely mince three cloves of garlic, and thinly slice four green onions. Save a few inches of the green part of the onions to slice up later for a garnish.
The combination of green onions, ginger, and garlic is the flavor base of Asian cooking. Just like America’s trio of celery, carrots, and onions. If you combine those three things in any recipe, it will give it an Asian flavor. Which is yummy.
Heat a large saute pan over medium heat with a little bit of vegetable oil.
Once your oil is hot, add in your garlic, ginger, and green onions and saute for a few minutes, stirring constantly.
Once you have been cooking your veggies for a few minutes, add in 1 pound of ground chicken and a little salt and pepper.
Break the chicken up with a wooden spoon, and turn the heat up to medium-high.
Break your chicken up and move it around, but then leave it for a minute or two so it can have a chance to brown before breaking it up and moving it around further. Continue this until your chicken is cooked through.
Meanwhile, chop up one 8 oz can of water chestnuts and 1/4 cup of cashews. In a small bowl, whisk together two tablespoons of soy sauce, two tablespoons of Hoisin Sauce, 1/2 tablespoon of Oyster Sauce, and a small squirt of Sriracha.
Once your chicken is cooked through, add in your rice, water chestnuts, and cashews and stir until everything is combined.
Add the sauce and mix until everything is evenly coated.
And now for the lettuce…maybe I am just an idiot, but I had THE HARDEST time with the lettuce.
First I tried butter lettuce. It could be that I just got bad quality butter lettuce, but it was so flimsy. It didn’t have much of a crisp to it and was pretty floppy. It still works for the lettuce wraps, but the texture and flavor of iceberg is better, in my opinion.
So then I tried iceberg lettuce! I literally got…one…single…perfect…lettuce…cup…out of the entire head. I’m sure there are easy ways to do this that I’m not aware of, but I do not know of these ways. If you have any tips on this, please share them with me!
So then I tried Romain lettuce! Romain works well, but it don’t give you the traditional lettuce “cup” shape that you are used to in the restaurants. It is a little longer and thinner. But it holds the filling well and is easy to eat. It also has the crisp that you want. So Romain was the clear winner for me.
In conclusion…feel free to try any of these three methods…If you feel like you can get “cups” out the iceberg, go for it. If you feel like you probably can’t, I would go with Romain.
However, what really matters is the filling. The lettuce is simply an avenue to get it into your mouth and add some crisp freshness to the bite.
So once you have your lettuce figured out, just spoon some filling into each lettuce up, garnish with some sliced green onions (optional) and you are good to go!
That is a picture of the single successful Iceberg lettuce cup that I had…….
Here is the recipe:
- ½ teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- 3 cloves garlic
- 4 green onions (scallions)
- 1 bag of "Uncle Ben's Boil in a Bag Brown Rice" (or ¼ cup of any quick cooking brown rice. It should be 1 cup once it's cooked)
- 1 lb ground chicken
- Vegetable oil
- 1 8 oz can water chestnuts
- ¼ cup cashews
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
- ½ tablespoon Oyster sauce
- 1 small squirt of Sriracha
- Lettuce (you can either use butter lettuce, Iceberg lettuce, or Romain lettuce)
- Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add a few pinches of salt
- Meanwhile, grate ½ teaspoon of fresh ginger, finely mince the garlic, and thinly slice the green onions
- Save a few inches of the green part of the onions and slice those up for a garnish at the end
- When your water is boiling, add the brown rice and boil for 10 to 12 minutes (or whatever it says on the box if you aren't using "Uncle Ben's")
- Heat a little bit of vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium heat
- Once the oil is hot, add the garlic, ginger, and green onions and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly
- Add your ground chicken along with a little salt and pepper to the pan with the veggies and turn your heat up to medium-high
- Break up the chicken and let it cook for a minute or two before breaking it up and moving it around further. This will give it a chance to brown
- Meanwhile, chop up the water chestnuts and cashews
- In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, Hoisin sauce, and Oyster sauce
- Once your chicken is browned and cooked through, add the rice, water chestnuts, and cashews
- Stir until everything is mixed together
- Add your sauce and stir until everything is evenly coated
- Taste and add any seasoning you think it needs
- Spoon the filling into your lettuce cups and garnish with green onions