Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Small Bite, Big Hit: Asian Lettuce Wraps

Asian Lettuce Wraps:  Small Bite; Big Hit
This past weekend, I prepared my favorite Asian Lettuce Wrap recipe for Friday Night Happy Hour.  These small bites are packed with flavor and remind me of those we enjoy at our favorite restaurants.  To me, the perfect appetizer, or small bite is one that you can easily put together, accepts ingredient substitutions without losing integrity, is full of flavor, and is healthy.  My Asian Lettuce Wrap recipe is all this and more.

Ingredient Substitutions:
Dietary restrictions?  Forgot to buy fresh onions?  Cannot find an Asian ingredient in your local store.  No worries!  This recipe, while already dairy free, lends itself perfectly to other ingredient substitutions.  Here are a few that you can try without sacrificing a single ounce of flavor:

  • Ground Meat:  This recipe tastes great whether you use ground chicken, turkey, beef or pork.
  • Lower Sodium Soy:  Trying to watch the sodium?  One big way to do this when going Asian is with Bragg's Liquid Aminos.  One serving contains only 160 mg sodium.  This is much lower than what other companies report.  Try substituting regular soy sauce with this product and see what you think.  
  • Gluten Free Ingredients:  Fifteen percent of the U.S. population are currently sensitive to gluten.  And, many of those people enjoy the Asian flavor profile.  So, what to do?  Substitute with a gluten-free brand sauce, such as Kikkoman's Gluten Free Soy Sauce or Premier Japan Hoisin Sauce.  
  • Fresh or Frozen Veggies:  No doubt that fresh, in-season vegetables are always best.  However, frozen onions, soup blends, etc. can absolutely be substituted.  When the frozen vegetables are on sale, grab a few mirepoix bags to keep on hand.  This recipe already calls for a bunch of chopping - a bit of frozen, chopped onions will save a few of those chops!  

The next day, leftover lettuce wraps were gobbled up as lunch.  You know you have a good recipe when it tastes just as yummy in leftover format! If you want to try them for yourself, keep reading to learn how I make my lettuce wraps:

Asian Lettuce Wraps
  • 1-2 Heads Butter Lettuce (also called Boston Bibb Lettuce)
  • 1 pound Lean Ground Meat
    Note:  I used ground chicken this week.  I've made this recipe with ground beef and ground pork - they work well too.
  • Cooking Oil or Cooking Spray
  • Six ounces Mirepoix
    Note:  Mirepoix  blend frozen vegetables are always in my freezer.  Feel free to substitute the following chopped vegetables:
    *One medium white onion
    *One large carrot
    *One celery stalk
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
    Note:  I use Bragg's Liquid Aminos instead of Soy Sauce in all my cooking.
  • 1/4 cup Hoisin Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Crystalized Ginger, minced
    Note:  My original recipe called for pickled ginger.  I could not find it, so I substituted crystalized ginger.  
  • 1 Tablespoon Rice Wine Vinegar
  • A few dashes Asian Chile Pepper Sauce, such as Siracha Sauce
  • 8 ounces Water Chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
  • 1 bunch Green onions, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Dark Sesame Oil  
Ingredients: Prepped and ready to go
General How To:
  • Rinse the lettuce and pat it dry or dry in a salad spinner.
Lettuce leaves, rinsed and dry
  • Chop or mince all your vegetables and have them ready to go:
    Note:  If preparing a fresh mirepoix, chop the onion, carrots and celery at this point as well.  
Chopped Garlic, Sugar Ginger, Water Chestnuts and Green Onion
  • Heat cooking oil or cooking spray in medium pan and brown the ground meat, stirring often.  Drain the fat and set the meat aside to cool.
Brown the ground meat over medium heat
  • Return the pan to cooktop.  Add mirepoix and cook, stirring frequently.
    Note:  You want the vegetables to cook, but not brown.
Cook Vegetables in same pan.
  • Add the following ingredients:  Bragg's Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce), Hoisin Sauce, Garlic, Ginger, Vinegar, Chile Pepper Sauce (or Siracha).  Stir to combine.
    Note:  Need to go gluten free?  Substitute gluten-free soy sauce and gluten-free hoisin sauce.   
  • Stir in the water chestnuts, green onions and sesame oil.  Cook until the onions are just beginning to wilt.
Cook until the green onions begin to wilt.

  • Add the ground meat and stir to combine.  Heat until all is warmed through.

All ingredients added:  It smells so good!

  • Arrange lettuce leaves around the outer edge of a large plate or platter.  Place the filling in the center. 

Presentation looks as good as it tastes!

  • Spoon some filling on a lettuce leaf, wrap it up and eat.

The mixture is moist and  flavorful - so yummy.  However, some people love to sauce it up.  Want a dipping sauce?  Here's my standard dipping sauce recipe:

Dipping Sauce for Asian Lettuce Wraps:

  • 1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
  • 2 teaspoons soy Sauce (or Bragg's Liquid Aminos)
  • 2 teaspoons Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon Asian Chile Pepper Sauce
  • 1 dash Sugar
  • Garnish (I show a few cilantro leaves)

Dipping Sauce Ingredients

General How To:

  • Mix all ingredients together and serve in small bowl for dipping.
So, there you go.  Small Bites that are a Big Hit!  Try the recipe out yourself and let me know how you like it!

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