We are up to dish number four in my Asian Series! Are you tired of Asian food yet? I promise to break away and post a great sweet something this week as an extra in between the savory stuff. Ooooh, how about a sticky maple-y cinnamon-ey Caramel-ly Monkey Bread made with frozen yeast dough? Oh so easy! I’ll walk you right through it. Especially good for brunch with that second cup of coffee. Need that first one while making it. Stay Tuned!
UPDATE: Here’s the Maple Nut Monkey Bread as promised!
OK, back to this post.
A while back, I ate at PF Changs and we ordered the lettuce wraps as an appetizer. Oh my goodness gracious sakes alive. I fell in love. Went back a couple more times ordering it again and again. I looked closely at the ingredients and did that tasting test with the tongue and smacking my lips trying to figure out what all was in the sauce. I just HAD to figure out how to make this at home! After some trial and error, this is what I came up with and it’s been an absolute favorite among those that have tried it. Now, I’m not claiming it to be just_like_PF Changs. Just saying I got my inspiration from them.
Even though this is considered an appetizer, I have fixed this as our main meal. There’s so much stuff in it that we’re good eating this all by its lonesome. It has meat protein, red cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts and cashews all covered in a rich thick sauce wrapped inside a lettuce leaf. That has to be all of the food groups in one! Right? I said meat protein because even though I use ground pork in mine, you could certainly use ground beef or ground chicken. As for lettuce, iceberg works well and is the most popular, but you could use bib lettuce too. Any kind that you can roll around this meat mixture and eat like a wrap.
Look for these other Asian dishes! As I post these recipes to the blog, I will come back and add the link for easy access. Asian Salad with Marinated Beef Flank Steak, Asian Salad Dressing, Sesame Chicken, Shrimp Fried Rice, Beef with Broccoli and Snow Peas, Cashew Chicken and Thai Basil Chicken.
This is how I make it.
Like most Asian dishes, it’s better to do all of the prep work before you begin cooking. It just makes things go smoother and quicker.
You will want to get your iceberg lettuce peeled apart for the wraps. First cut out the core of the lettuce head. Then cut the head in half. Now all you have to do is carefully peel away each layer and just stack them up on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and put them back in the refrigerator to keep cold and crisp. Otherwise they’ll wilt.
Let’s talk fresh ginger. The picture on the left is what it looks like before you peel it. You will want to peel off the skin to get to the woody meat of the ginger.
I like to use a microplane to zest my ginger nice and fine. A fine grater also does the trick.
Grate about a teaspoon. Really, it doesn’t have to be exact, I usually just eyeball it by looking at a measuring spoon.
Then peel and shred the carrot. Depending on how big the carrots are, usually one will make about 1/2 cup. I like using a potato peeler to not only peel the carrot, but to shred it too. While you’re at it, go ahead and cut up the green onions, shred the red cabbage and set aside. Get out the oyster sauce, soy or tamari sauce, sesame oil, bean sprouts, and cashews and put them on the counter for easy access.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the ground pork in a little peanut or vegetable oil. If you’re not into pork, you can certainly use ground beef or ground chicken.
Reduce heat to medium and add the chopped green onion including some of the green stem. Cook the green onions for about 2 minutes until they’re good and hot and starting to soften.
Drop the heat a little to about medium-low. Pour in the oyster sauce. This is readily available in a jar in the Asian section of your grocery store where you’ll find the soy sauce and sesame oils. It’s very rich and thick. Love this stuff!
Then add the sesame oil and soy or tamari sauce.
So, what is the difference between soy sauce and tamari sauce? Here’s the short answer. Soy sauce is made from soy beans, some kind of wheat, water and salt. Tamari is made from soy beans, water and salt which makes it gluten free. If you’re on a gluten free diet, you should always use tamari sauce. (you’ll see this statement in many of my dishes that contain soy or tamari sauce… just saying…)
Then add that fresh grated ginger. Stir to get all of those delicious flavors incorporated into the meat.
Here’s a tip. I made this as an appetizer for a small dinner party. I wanted to have it nearly ready about 30 minutes ahead of time so I could focus on other things. So when I got to this point, I turned the burner to it’s lowest setting and covered it to keep warm. Just be sure your lowest setting isn’t too hot to dry it out. You could add a couple of Tablespoons of water to keep it from drying out or just turn off the burner for a bit.
If you made the meat and sauce ahead of time and turned it off, no biggie, just turn the burner back on to a medium-low and heat it back up.
Throw in the cabbage and stir well. I usually add a couple of Tablespoons of water to help steam the cabbage. Let this cook for about 5 minutes over medium-low heat just until it’s starting to get soft. I tend to like to keep a crunch in the vegetables that I cook. If you want them to be softer, just cook them a few minutes longer. You may need to add more water to keep the meat and sauce from getting too dry.
Looks good enough to eat just as it is! But we’re not done yet. Almost, but not quite.
The last three things I add, I prefer to put in just before serving.
Throw in the shredded carrots and cashews. Stir and cook for about 1-2 minutes, just until hot.
Then throw in the bean sprouts, turn off the burner and gently stir. You don’t want to cook the bean sprouts, just let the meat mixture heat them up. Otherwise they get all wilted and soggy. Just my personal preference.
Scoop a good spoon full and put it inside one of the lettuce leafs.
Mouth watering delicious!
Roll it up and eat it like you would eat a wrap.
The hardest thing about blogging about recipes is, it makes me want to go make everything again! This is truly to die for! I realize this is a long post, but it’s not a complicated dish to make. It’s very forgiving and all about having the prep work done ahead of time.
What is your favorite Asian appetizer?
Here’s the printer friendly recipe.