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Let’s Talk Food: Chicken lettuce wraps

With the warmer evenings, lettuce wraps could be a great, refreshing meal, or even served as an appetizer. For me, that would certainly be enough for a meal, especially in the evening as I do not want to go to bed full.

Chicken lettuce wraps first appeared on the menu at The Mandarin in San Francisco, owned by Cecilia Chiang. Cecilia’s son, Philip Chiang, along with Paul Fleming opened the first P.F. Chang’s on July 20, 1993, in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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Philip was born in Shanghai but grew up in Tokyo. The Japanese upbringing of balance and simplicity in food carried over into the creation of P.F. Chang’s. Their “recipes are purposefully simple, featuring a few clean ingredients selected for their flavor and nutritional benefit. This means that everything on your plate or in your bowl is meant to be enjoyed.”

Their philosophy of food, like the Japanese philosophy of eating with your eyes, is also in each dish at P.F. Chang’s, as each is made with heart and served with honor.

One of their producers, or as P.F. Chang’s calls “partners,” is Muranaka Farms, which grows 16-inch green onions exclusively for the restaurant chain and cannot be found at the grocery store. Because of their size, every piece of the green onions is used, helping reduce unnecessary food waste.

P.F. Chang’s famous and No. 1 Chinese lettuce wraps are one of the most copied dishes, and although many come very close, nothing beats the original. However, we in Hilo do not have a P.F. Chang’s, so making our own is the best we can do.

Chinese Lettuce Wraps Like P.F. Chang’s

Serves: 4

For the chicken:

1 large egg white

1 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry

1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts, diced

For the stir-fry sauce:

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

2 teaspoons cornstarch

For the noodles:

2 bundles cellophane noodles (long rice)

Peanut oil, for frying

For the stir-fry:

4 tablespoons peanut oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon minced peeled ginger

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced

4 green onions, 2 minced, 2 cut into 1-inch pieces

Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and diced

3/4 cup diced water chestnuts

Small lettuce leaves, for serving

Soy sauce, chili paste and/or hot mustard, for serving

Prepare the chicken: Whisk the egg white, cornstarch and rice wine or sherry in a bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Make the stir-fry sauce: Whisk 1/3 cup water, the oyster, hoisin and soy sauces, rice wine, Sriracha sauce and sesame oil in a bowl, then whisk in the cornstarch until dissolved.

Fry the noodles: Pull the noodles apart into sections. Heat 3/4 inch peanut oil in a medium saucepan until a deep fry thermometer registers 380 degrees. Working in batches, press the noodles into the oil with a spatula until they puff, 5-10 seconds. Drain on paper towels.

Make the stir-fry: Heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring, about 2-3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons peanut oil to the skillet; when almost smoking, stir in the garlic, ginger, jalapeno and minced green onions, then add 1/2 teaspoon salt and the sugar and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms, water chestnuts and green onion pieces and stir-fry, 2 minutes. Add the stir-fry sauce and chicken and cook for 1 minute.

Make a bed of noodles on a platter and top with the chicken mixture. Serve the noodles and stir-fry with lettuce leaves and soy sauce.

•••

Here’s another version of P.F. Chang’s chicken lettuce wraps that are simpler to make.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

In a large skillet, add over medium-high heat until chicken is crumbly:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 pound ground chicken or turkey

Add and stir to combine for 5 minutes:

1 medium yellow onion, diced small

1/3 cup hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoons Asian chili garlic sauce or Sriracha

Add, stir to combine, cook for 1 minute or until fragrant:

3 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed

2 teaspoons grated ginger, or to taste

Cook for 2 minutes.

Add:

One 8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and diced small

3 green onions, sliced thinly

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon pepper, to taste

Spoon 1/4 cup of the mixture into the leaves to serve:

Butter lettuce leaves, for serving

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A serving of lettuce wraps is 178 calories, 10 grams of protein, 2 grams of dietary fiber and 458 grams of sodium.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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