Thursday, 14 April 2016

Hoisin Chicken Lettuce Wraps

For the last few days I have been wanting lettuce wraps; maybe it's the warm sunny weather we're having that's making me want lighter meals. I finally got around to making them, and it was well worth the wait!

I knew I would have complaints about the lack of carbs, so I added a noodle salad to the menu. The sweet, spicy chicken wrapped in the fresh crispy  butter lettuce and topped with carrots, red peppers, cucumber, scallions and cashews was more than enough for me.

Making this also gave me the chance to use the last two baby cucumbers, the half red pepper and the open jar of Hoisin sauce in the fridge. I also used up some of the edamame beans in the freezer; it seems like they have been forgotten in there.

Make a quick marinade for the chicken by combining:

1/4 cup Hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon Sriracha
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Juice of 1 lime
2 green onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger


6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

Make sure the chicken is well coated with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

In a hot pan, using a bit of olive oil, sear the chicken on one side.

Reserve the marinade.

Turn the chicken to sear the second side.

Add 1/4 cup water to the marinade and add it to the pan.

Cover and simmer until the chicken is tender enough to shred.

Using two forks, shred the chicken and keep it warm in the sauce.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the lettuce leaves and toppings for the wraps.

Finely diced red pepper
Thinly sliced green onion
Grated carrot
Grated cucumber
Blanched edamame beans
Toasted, chopped cashews

Butter lettuce leaves, gently separated from the core, and kept whole.

Place everything on the table and allow people to assemble their own wraps...fill a lettuce leaf with some of the chicken and sauce, add your favourite toppings, and eat! Include sauces such as sriracha, sweet chili or soy for those who would like some extra on their wrap. Don't forget the napkins, these can be messy!

  • Lettuce wraps are a great alternative to tortilla wraps, or even rice paper wraps. They are gluten free, but are also fresh and light, full of vegetables that you often have in the fridge and have the added fun of being a meal that everyone can customize as they assemble their own wraps.
  • The best lettuce to use is one that has a strong, firm centre rib, is sturdy enough not to wilt when hot or warm fillings are put inside and if the leaves have a cup shape, even better. Try butter lettuce or iceberg lettuce. Romaine hearts or Belgian endive can be used like taco shells, folded in half with the filling in the middle as opposed to wrapped around the filling; if you don't mind the bitter taste of radicchio, the leaves are sturdy and have nice cup shapes. 
  • To help prevent the leaves from wilting serve the chicken warm, rather than hot.
  • I chose chicken thighs for this recipe as they could be cooked slowly and then shredded, while still remaining moist. As the chicken cooked, the marinade penetrated the meat, adding flavour and moisture. It also reduced down to make a tasty sauce.
  • Hoisin sauce is sweet, but the soy sauce and lime juice cut the sweetness a bit, leaving you with a slightly sweet and sour sauce. The sriracha adds the heat, and can be adjusted according to your tastes. If you want a sweeter sauce, use less lime juice, or add a bit of honey.
  • You can use leftover cooked chicken...shred it, and then bring the marinade ingredients to a boil, add the chicken and allow it to simmer until the chicken is heated through. 
  • Other meats can be used with this marinade...pork butt or beef outside round need to cook low and slow in order to obtain the tenderness needed. Quicker cooking meats such as pork or beef tenderloin, fish or prawns, chicken breast can be marinated and then quickly seared and cooked through, before being diced.
  • Lettuce wraps can also be filled with fillings such as taco mix, or cooked and crumbled sausage.
  • Keep it vegetarian and use grilled vegetables, marinated and grilled tofu or baked beans as a filling.
  • Toppings can include other things such as sesame or pumpkin seeds;  toasted and roughly chopped peanuts; toasted coconut; bean or alfalfa sprouts; enoki mushrooms; thinly sliced snow peas.
  • The chicken can be cooked and frozen, so why not make a large batch? It can also be used for tortilla wraps, pizza toppings, added to stir fry or salads.
  • The wraps cannot be assembled ahead of time, so leftovers being taken for lunch need to be assembled at work or school. Take a container of filling and toppings, and one with lettuce and you are set to go!

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