Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Calling all gluttonous, holidaty revellers: This dish is for YOU (and me).

I have named these ‘Asian Lettuce Wraps' because I used ingredients from several different Asian countries. I am usually not a stickler for specific ingredients but in this case it is best to use all of the ingredients that I mention. They all build on one and other, layering flavours—no one flavour stands out too much.

These are fun to serve to a group; everyone rolls their own wraps. It makes for quite a social meal. And, they are incredibly healthy...

This is a long ingredients list, but don’t worry—it can be prepared in stages or done all ahead of time and truly does not take that long...

P.S. This can be vegan by ommiting the chicken.

Boston Bibb or Little Gem lettuce, allow about 4 large leaves per person
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast per person
1 bottle of soy sauce (low sodium or regular, but good quality)
2 inch piece fresh ginger (no need to peel), chopped into thick rounds
2 cloves garlic (no need to peel), smashed
English cucumber, washed and sliced into thin sticks
1 green onion per person, trimmed and chopped (including most of the green)
Cellophane noodles, cooked to package directions, run under cold water, then drizzled lightly with sesame (or vegetable) oil and tossed to prevent sticking (angel hair pasta could substitute)
1 bunch fresh cilantro (coriander), washed and chopped
½ as much fresh mint, washed and chopped (mix with the chopped cilantro leaves)
A couple of handfuls of dry roasted peanuts, chopped
Pickled carrots (recipe below)
Thai Lime Dipping Sauce (recipe below)

The Wraps:
1) Separate out the lettuce leaves and wash. Set aside until ready to eat.

2) Place the chicken breasts in a pot large enough to hold all that you’ve got. Pour in cold water to come ¾ ways up the chicken, and then pour in the soy sauce to bring the liquid just to cover the chicken. Toss in the ginger and garlic. Cover and bring to a simmer, crack the lid, keep it simmering and cook until just poached, about 20 minutes. Remove from the poaching liquid (which has now become a tasty soup of sorts) and cool until you can handle them, then shred the meat and refrigerate until ready to eat.

3) Arrange all of the wrap ingredients on separate platters on the table (lettuce leaves, chicken, noodles, sauce, fresh and pickled veggies, peanuts, fresh herbs). Wrap a little of everything in a lettuce leaf, like a burrito, drizzle with sauce and munch away.

Thai Lime Dipping Sauce:
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup very hot water
¼ cup fish sauce
2 tablespoon soy sauce (or more to taste)
Juice of 2 limes
½ of a large (2 inch long), fresh Thai chilli pepper, about ¼ teaspoon, chopped fine

Place everything into a lidded jar, close the top and shake. Keeps refrigerated for up to a week. Smells bad, tastes soooooo good.

Pickles Carrots:
3 large carrots, peeled and shredded
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Equal parts water and white vinegar (enough to just cover the carrots)

Toss the carrots with the salt and sugar. Place in a non-reactive bowl, and then pour over equal parts vinegar and water. Allow to sit for a few hours at room temperature. When ready to eat, squeeze out the carrots and serve.

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