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Chinese-Chicken Lettuce Cups

Chinese cooks don’t use a lot of raw vegetables, but instead prefer to stir-fry or braise them. There are a few exceptions, however, and in Hong Kong, cooks fill crisp iceberg lettuce leaves with savory minced pigeon meat. Since we have no intention of domesticating the pigeons outside our New York City apartment window, we’ve substituted chicken in this recipe, which tastes equally delicious. Chuck all the filling ingredients in a food processor rather than chop them by hand if you’re in a hurry, processing the veggies first and then the chicken, but leave larger chunks of mushrooms and water chestnuts to add texture. Don’t forget the fresh cilantro leaves heaped on top of the assembled cups.–Nate and Mary Kate Tate

LC Better Than You'd Remembered Note

You know how sometimes you try to recreate a restaurant classic at home and it doesn’t work? And you’re left only with bittersweet memories and dashed dreams? This isn’t one of those times. We were grinning like idiots as we crammed these delicate lettuce cups into our mouths. We found no room for improvement, save perhaps a dash of Sriracha or other hot sauce for those who like things a little less than tame. We can also see taking these little lovelies to work with us for lunch on those days when we really need something to look forward to all morning.

Chinese Chicken Lettuce Cups Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 30 M
  • Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger root
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup whole or sliced canned water chestnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 cup canned mushrooms, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, finely chopped
  • 8 to 12 inner leaves butter lettuce or iceberg lettuce, chilled
  • Handful fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup unsalted roasted cashews or peanuts, coarsely chopped

Directions

  • 1. Combine the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, vinegar, salt, and sugar in a small bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves.
  • 2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Stir-fry the garlic and ginger for 10 seconds. Add the onion, water chestnuts, and mushrooms, if using, and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  • 3. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the wok over medium-high heat. Carefully tilt the wok to swirl the oil and coat the surface. Add the chicken and cook until no trace of pink remains, about 1 minute. Return the cooked vegetable mixture to the wok and decrease the heat to medium-low. Give the sauce mixture a quick stir to recombine, then add it to the wok. Cook, stirring, until the sauce is warm and the chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute.
  • 4. Spoon the filling in equal amounts into the lettuce cups. Top each lettuce cup with a sprinkle of cilantro and cashews or peanuts. Serve warm with the instructions that this is a cup and not necessarily a wrap, so simply gather the bundle up with your fingertips or cup it in your palm and take a bite.
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