Thursday, March 22, 2012

Chinese-style Minced Meat Lettuce Wraps

This is a popular appetizer at a nation-wide Chinese restaurant chain. It's not traditional but it sure is tasty. You can use whatever ground meat you like: beef, pork, chicken, turkey, or lamb. I'm sure vegetarian ground "meat" would work too. The flavors are big, making up for any blandness in the meat (or meat substitute). Our recipe makes 3-4 entree portions, so this is a cheap way to get your lettuce wrap fix.

The water chestnuts and the lettuce add a wonderful crunch. It's usually served with iceberg lettuce which gives maximum crunch but any large lettuce leaves will work. Those are green leaf lettuce in the photo.

Nothing terribly exotic here. Hoisin sauce, water chestnuts, and Asian sesame oil are all available at your average large supermarket.

Chinese-style Minced Meat Lettuce Wraps
(serves 3-4 as an entree; total cost $6.75)

16 large Lettuce Leaves Such As Romaine Or Iceberg, washed and patted dry
1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
1 pound Lean Ground Beef
½ medium Onion, minced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
¼ cup Hoisin Sauce
2 teaspoons Minced Fresh Ginger
1 tablespoon Rice Vinegar
1-2 teaspoons Chinese Chile Paste Or Chile Oil, optional
1 8 ounce (5 oz. drained weight) can Water Chestnuts, drained and cut into ¼" dice
3 Green Onions, chopped
2 teaspoons Asian Sesame Oil

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef in oil, stirring often and breaking chunks into small bits. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Cook the onion in the same pan, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add the garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar, and chile paste or oil to the onions, and stir. Stir in chopped water chestnuts, green onions,  and cooked beef; continue cooking another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add sesame oil.

Spoon beef mixture into center of each lettuce leaf and serve.

Notes: Ground pork, turkey, chicken, lamb, or a vegetarian ground meat substitute all work as well as ground beef.

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