Recipe for Chinese Lettuce Wraps
For all the times I have ordered chicken lettuce wraps at Chinese restaurants like P.F. Chang's, inhaled entire "appetizers" by myself, and sighed with happiness while licking sticky sauce from my fingers, it never once occurred to me to try making this dish at home. Partly, lettuce wraps have always felt like an indulgence that needed restriction to restaurant visits only. Partly, I assumed that the secret to their deliciousness surely lay in a long list of ingredients, fussy technique, or both.
You see where I'm heading here, yes? We can definitely make chicken lettuce wraps at home. It's actually super easy and makes a surprisingly quick and healthy weeknight meal. Pick up what you need on your way home, and you can have these for dinner tonight.
The Secret Sauce
I can't claim to know what P.F. Chang's or other Chinese restaurants put in their secret sauce, but I feel pretty happy with my own. The key ingredient is hoisin — a sweet, salty, slightly tangy, spiced sauce that's like the Chinese equivalent to American barbecue sauce. Here, I mix it with some soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil to make a sticky glaze for the chicken in our wraps.
This sauce is what gives the chicken filling its rich, savory depth. And (in my professional opinion) what makes these wraps so incredibly addictive, both at restaurants and at home.
The Chicken Filling
Of course, a secret sauce requires a delivery vehicle, and in this case, ground chicken does the job. This is one place where the relatively light and mild flavor of chicken is a boon — any other meat would make this dish too rich. I like the chewy, nubbly texture of ground chicken (or turkey) in this dish, though you could mince some chicken breasts or thighs if you'd prefer.
To round out the filling, add some diced mushrooms, water chestnuts, garlic, and ginger. I especially love the water chestnuts — their wet crunchiness is always a nice surprise in each bite!
The Lettuce Wrap
Bibb or butter lettuce are my picks for these wraps. They have sturdy, broad leaves that hold a good amount of filling without major risk of everything falling apart. Look for relatively small heads with fresh outer leaves that show no signs of wilting.