Popular Chinese eatery P.F. Chang’s has been celebrating its 25th birthday.
The lettuce wraps are arguably one of the most popular and best-loved dishes at P.F. Chang’s. They consist of seasoned ground chicken that’s scooped into crunchy iceberg lettuce and topped with crispy bean thread noodles. Wrap and eat.
The chain, with a location at the Alderwood mall, won’t give out the recipe, of course, but it’s fairly simple to replicate. Most copycat recipes I’ve seen call for mixing the ground chicken with chopped mushrooms and water chestnuts, but you can make the wraps however you like.
P.F. Chang’s uses iceberg lettuce, but my preference is to use either the softer Bibb lettuce or the Little Gem romaine variety. The Little Gem are small lettuce heads with compact curly leaves. Not all stores carry them.
The leaves of Little Gem have a slightly sweet flavor and they’re crunchy — but not fall-apart crunchy like whole heads of iceberg can be.
Another lettuce I came across recently is a smaller version of romaine. These are about half the size of romaine hearts, and they’re sold three to a package for about $3.
Smaller varieties of lettuce are ideal for wraps. If you’re watching your carbohydrate intake and omitting bread, they’re a fine for making sandwiches. They also make terrific holders for appetizers like shrimp cocktail.
Today’s lettuce-wrap recipe features pork tenderloin. But you can use chicken or make it with all vegetables. It also works with beef and shrimp. You’ll need to adjust the cooking times accordingly.
Spicy Asian lettuce wraps
You can substitute one minced clove of garlic and ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper for the Asian chili-garlic sauce. Make sure the pork tenderloin (or whatever protein you are using) is well chilled. This will keep it from turning to mush in the food processor.
¼ cup hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon Asian chili paste (Sambal Oelek) or chili-garlic sauce, or to taste
1 pork tenderloin (16 ounces), well-chilled, trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 head of Bibb lettuce, leaves separated
For the serving sauce:
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil, optional
1-2 teaspoons Asian chili paste
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
Cilantro-Mint Slaw (optional), see note
In a medium bowl, whisk hoisin sauce, soy sauce, water and chili-garlic sauce together in large bowl; set aside. In a food processor pulse the pork until it’s just coarsely chopped, about 5-10 pulses. Do this in two batches if your food processor is small.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Transfer pork to bowl with hoisin mixture. Stir to combine.
In the same skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the bell pepper and water chestnuts. Cook until bell pepper softens, about 3 minutes. Add ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add pork mixture to skillet, bring to simmer, and heat through, about 1 minute. Transfer to serving dish.
In small bowl mix together the sauce ingredients, adjusting to taste. If you want it spicy, add more chili paste.
To serve, spoon pork mixture into lettuce leaves. Serve with the sauce on the side for drizzling over pork.
Note: To make the cilantro slaw, in a medium bowl mix together purchased broccoli-slaw mix with ½ cup sliced green onion, ½ cup chopped cilantro leaves and about ⅓ cup mint leaves. Double the sauce mixture from above and drizzle it over the slaw, toss to coat. Top the lettuce wraps with the slaw.
— Recipe adapted from Cook’s Country magazine, May 2013 issue.
Serves 4. Nutrition per serving: 365 calories (40 percent from fat), 16 grams fat (3 grams saturated fat), 20 grams carbohydrates, 34 grams protein, 932 milligrams sodium, 90 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams fiber.