Thai Vegetable Lettuce Wraps
By Lori Ross
Lettuce wraps are a staple of Pacific Rim and California-style Asian restaurants. In Thailand, cool lettuces and greens are used as wraps to create a contrast in flavors, such as in lettuce wraps where warm cooked warm noodles, meats or seafood are mixed with raw crispy vegetables and crunchy nuts or fried shallots then rolled and dipped in a sweet bright sauce. While the ingredients list is daunting, the dish is very flexible and you can make use of whatever you have. The work is mostly chopping and plating with a small amount of cooking to make the warm veggie mixture that will go into the lettuce wraps. These are fun for kids too. Every child I know loves these lettuces wraps because they can choose what they like and the can make and eat lettuce wraps with their hands!
Cooked vegetables for lettuce wraps
1 tspn vegetable oil
2 cup mixed diced vegetables (for example, celery, onion, red sweet peppers, sugar snap peas, snow peas, carrots, water chestnuts, broccoli, zucchini, sweet potato, edamame, baby corn)
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tspn fish sauce or soy sauce
2 tspn brown sugar
1 tspn ginger, finely grated
4 scallions (green onions), chopped
1/3 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup basil leaves
1 chopped jalapeno or red Chile (optional)
Marinade for vegetables
1-1/2 tspn cornstarch
2 tspn water
1/4 tspn salt
1 large egg white, beaten lightly
Garnishes for lettuce wraps
18 iceberg lettuce leaves (3 per person)
2 cups cooked noodles (rice noodles, soba or angel hair pasta
2 cup bean sprouts
2 tspn nuts, toasted (pine nuts, peanuts, cashews)
1/2 cup of each of parsley, chives, cilantro, mint
1 whole cucumber, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup hoisin sauce, duck sauce or plum sauce
Marinate veggies: In a small cup, stir together cornstarch and water. In a bowl, stir together veggies, cornstarch mixture, salt, and egg white. Marinate mixture 5 minutes.
Cook veggies: Heat a frying pan over high heat and add oil. Remove veggie mixture from marinade and drain; add to pan and stirfry for 5 minutes or until just golden brown. Combine the lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar and add to pan along with ginger, and half the green onions. Cook for 2 minutes or until the liquid is evaporated then add cilantro, basil and chili if using.
Serving: Place veggie mixture on a large platter surrounded by noodles, bean sprouts, green onions, nuts, cucumbers, herbs and lettuce leaves in little piles. Add bowls of dipping sauces and hoisin, duck (don’t worry, no ducks involved) or plum sauce.
Children place a small amount of hoisin, plum or duck sauce in lettuce leaf; then, add a teaspoon or so of warm veggie mixture, followed by noodles, cucumber, their choice of herbs (mint, cilantro, parsley), and top it all with nuts. Roll loosely and dip in one of the dipping sauces below.
Peanut Dipping Sauce
3 tspn minced onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tspn oil
3 tspn water
1 tspn peanut butter
1 tspn hoisin sauce
1 tspn tomato paste
3/4 tspn sugar
3/4 tspn crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Microwave onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper in oil for 2 minutes on high. Whisk in remaining sauce ingredients. Heat for 1 minute, stir, and then cool.
Ginger Dipping Sauce
1 piece fresh ginger (about 2 inches), peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic or 2 teaspoon garlic paste
Juice and pulp of 1 lime, finely chopped
2 tspn sugar
2 tspn fish sauce or soy sauce
Chile pepper, minced, or hot sauce to taste (optional)
Combine all ingredients. Let stand to blend the flavors.