Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Our lettuce wrap spread, including rice paper for those wanting to make summer rolls instead.

Our lettuce wrap spread, including rice paper for those wanting to make summer rolls instead.

This recipe has become my family’s all time favorite dinner, ever. We eat it sometimes two, even three times a week, and the leftovers are just as good. What I love about this meal is that it incorporates tons of vegetables, and juxtaposes hot and cold, crunchy and soft, and sweet and spicy, which keeps my mouth interested.

The hardest part of this dinner is the prep work. You can save time by buying pre-washed/sliced vegetables, but I enjoy the time I spend in the kitchen. ¬†Play around with the ingredients, too. You can replace the chicken with a lean cut of beef, or pork, or even shrimp. You’ll need to adjust the cooking times accordingly, but the taste will be phenomenal.

You can also play around with the vegetation. Do you like kale more than butter leaf lettuce? Use it instead. Prefer bean sprouts to shredded carrots? Swap them out. The variations are endless. You won’t be disappointed.

Serves 4-6 plus extra for leftovers the next day.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. of thinly sliced, boneless, skinless chicken (I prefer breast meat for this recipe, but if you like thighs, use them instead.)
  • 2 tablespoons of Sriracha chile sauce (optional, this is what makes this dish “spicy.”)
  • 4 tablespoons of Kekap Manis – a sweet, thick soy sauce. (You can find this ingredient at most Asian grocery stores. Make sure it is the thick kind, as there is another sweet soy sauce that is thin in texture.)
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon of Xiao Xing rice wine (also available at most Asian grocery stores. Can also be spelled Shao Hsing.)
  • 1 tablespoon of tamari (dark soy sauce)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 head of butter-leaf lettuce, rinsed and separated into individual leaves.
  • 1 cup of thinly sliced radish
  • 1 cup of shredded carrot
  • 1 cup of finely chopped green onion
  • 1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced (I prefer English cucumbers, but any variety will do. Peel the skin if it is too thick/waxy.)
  • 1 jalapeno, thinly sliced (optional, my family likes the extra heat and crunch, but if you don’t, skip this ingredient.)
  • 1 red/yellow or orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 avocados, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups of vermicelli noodles, cooked and drained/rinsed/chilled (optional. I discovered the addition of noodles to lettuce wraps at a favorite Vietnamese restaurant, and copied the technique.)
  • 1 bunch of shiso leaves, rinsed and stemmed (this is an optional ingredient. I discovered shiso leaf, or Japanese basil, at a Vietnamese restaurant, and later in a nearby Vietnamese grocery store, and I love it. It’s herbaceous, slightly minty, with a light grassy-basil flavor. I’ve never tasted anything like it, and use it often. If you can’t find it, use fresh mint leaves, coriander, or even Thai basil. Or, skip it altogether.)
  • Crushed unsalted peanuts (optional)

Directions

  • Marinate the chicken in the Sriracha, Kekap Manis, sesame oil, Xiao Xing, tamari, garlic and ginger for one hour before cooking.
  • Place the chicken and all of the marinade in a large nonstick skillet and cook over high heat, stirring every few minutes to prevent burning, until cooked, about ten minutes. The marinade will thicken up and caramelize, creating a wonderful sticky sauce on the chicken.
  • Move the cooked chicken to a serving bowl and set aside.
  • Assemble a large serving platter with the various veggie sides. I use multiple bowls and plates to pass around the table.
  • Rinse the noodles once more (if using) to loosen them. Set them in a bowl when they are completely drained.
  • Place the crushed peanuts in a small serving bowl with a spoon to sprinkle on top of the lettuce wraps.
  • Have everyone assemble their own wraps by placing a lettuce leaf on their plate, and filling it with meat, noodles and vegetables. Our family squeezes a little extra Sriracha sauce on top, but we like food really spicy.
  • Eat with your hands, and have lots of napkins on hand.
  • Enjoy!
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