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That’s a Wrap!

Varied toppings take place of sauces in this make-at-home lettuce wrap

Published: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 5:00 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Herald Photo by Lisa Pesavento)
A combination of soy sauce, hoisin sauce and rice vinegar help give these lettuce wraps their distinct flavor, but it is the toppings like grated carrots and crispy noodles that give it them that “something extra.”

Lettuce wraps are a lot easier to make than you may think. And, they can be served as an appetizer or a meal.

Lettuce wraps are delicious any time of the year.  Serve this in the summer for a light, refreshing meal. In winter, they are also good.  In fact, I can’t think of a season where these wraps are not appropriate.

You will have to check your grocery store for the kind of lettuce that looks freshest for these wraps. My favorite is iceberg lettuce, but if you like a firmer piece of lettuce, Romaine lettuce is good; for a softer lettuce use Bibb.

Typically, we choose a head of lettuce that is firm.  When making lettuce wraps, choose a head of lettuce that is not firm. It will be easier to separate the leaves.

When you eat lettuce wraps in a restaurant, they are usually served with several dipping sauces. To me, this seems like a waste.

So much of the sauce is left over; and who wants to save a sauce that has been used? Not me. In fact, I do not even like to mess with sauces for home purposes, so I just have some additional toppings prepared.

Instead, I like to serve my lettuce wraps with a choice of toppings.  Somehow there seems to be no toppings left once the lettuce wraps have been eaten, and we do not miss the sauces at all. I do add an extra teaspoon or two of the hoisin sauce before serving for more flavor.

My favorites toppings are grated carrots, peanuts, and diced cucumbers, but you may have other ideas that are even better.

I also like to serve some crispy noodles along with the lettuce wraps.  It seems to make it a bit more authentic.

My family likes to call them Styrofoam noodles, and everyone loves them.  They add a crunch to the lettuce wraps.

To prepare the noodle (which once cooked hardly resembles a noodle at all) you will need to buy rice noodles. You can usually find these in Asian section of the grocery store.

Follow the package directions for cooking these noodles.  They cook really fast and turn brown if overcooked.

If you feel that you do need sauces, peanut sauce and hot chili oil are available in the Asian section of the grocery store. Just be warned, these will have to be tempered down with the hoisin sauce or soy sauce because they are very hot.

Enjoy making lettuce wraps at home.  They are delicious as an appetizer or a light meal. 

And remember, …a good cook always cleans up!
LETTUCE WRAPS

2 TB vegetable oil 1 pound ground chicken or turkey 3 cups finely chopped white mushrooms ½ tsp. ground ginger 1 ½ TB crushed garlic 1/3-cup soy sauce 1/3-cup hoisin sauce 1/3-cup rice vinegar 1 head romaine lettuce
GARNISHES:
Grated carrots Diced cucumbers Chopped peanuts

SAUCES: Peanut sauce Hot chili oil

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chicken or turkey and stir, breaking into small pieces.  Stir in mushrooms, ginger and garlic. Continue to stir and cook for about 4-5 minutes, or until the mushroom liquid has evaporated.

Stir in soy sauce, hoisin sauce and vinegar. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 4-5 minutes to blend flavors. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Arrange lettuce leaves on a platter. Spoon the filling into the lettuce leaves and garnish as desired. 

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