One of my favorite Chinese dishes is minced meat and vegetables wrapped in lettuce leaves or cups. Some people make it with chicken. My mom makes it with dried oysters. I love it either way, but it is a labor intensive dish because of all the chopping and mincing of the ingredients, so when I came across a simplified version of this recipe in Yum Food and Fun for Kids magazine using ground beef, I jumped at the chance to try it out.
Here is the recipe with my modifications:
Asian Lettuce Wraps
Half an iceberg lettuce (You can also use Romaine lettuce).
1 lb lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar (aka just “rice vinegar”)
15 fresh water chestnuts, peeled and finely chopped (To make it even easier, you can substitute an 8-oz can of water chestnuts, drained for the fresh).
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
Separate the lettuce into the individual leaves by placing it into some cold water in your sink – enough to cover the lettuce. Keeping the lettuce submerged, separate the individual leaves. (Keeping the lettuce in water makes it a lot easier to remove the leaves). Wash and drain the leaves in a colander and set aside.
In a wok or medium skillet over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef in oil until cooked through. Drain and set aside to cool.
In the same pan, cook the onion until tender. In a bowl combine the garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and vinegar, and add to the onions. Add the water chestnuts, scallions, and sesame oil, and cook for about 2 minutes, until the scallions soften.
Add the cooked ground beef to the rest of the mixture. Stir until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
To serve, spoon some of the ground meat mixture into a lettuce leaf. Fold the lettuce over the filling and enjoy.
When my mom makes her version of this dish, she likes to add minced Chinese celery to it. I think it would make a nice addition here, too, with the water chestnuts. Chinese celery has much thinner stalks, but if you can’t find any, just use regular celery and finely chop it.
What are some of your favorite easy Asian recipes? Please share in the comments.