Summer is in full swing and on a hot, humid evening we like to eat a little lighter. Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps, which are a popular appetizer served in many restaurants, are easy to make and serve at home. The wraps are great served as an appetizer but they also make a delicious meal. The hot, sour, salty and sweet flavors of herbs, chilies, fish sauce and lime, which are those typically found in Thai cooking, are mixed with sautéed ground chicken. Served alongside a platter of lettuce leaves and limes, a dipping sauce, some sticky rice and perhaps a thinly sliced Thai cucumber salad, you have a great tasting summer meal.
As with other ethnic dishes, there are as many variations of the wraps as there is the spelling of its name. If you visit a Thai, Laotian or Vietnamese restaurant, you might see it listed on a menu as Larb, Larb Gai, Laab Gai or even Laph Gai among other names. I just refer to them as Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps.
Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps
- 1 head of Boston lettuce (butter, bibb or other soft lettuce may be used), separated
- 1/2 – 3/4 lb. coarsely ground chicken (You can also use turkey, beef or pork that you coarsely chop yourself in a food processor)
- 1 Tbsp. peanut or canola oil
- 1/2 onion, minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
- 1 Tbsp. soy sauce (I use low sodium)
- 1 tsp. fish sauce (optional)
- 3 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
- 2 tsp. sweet chili sauce or to taste
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
- 2 tsp. sesame oil
Rinse lettuce, separate into individual leaves, set aside to dry.
Heat peanut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and sauté, stirring often to break up the meat. Add the onion and cook until soft. Then add the garlic and ginger and cook an additional minute. Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, sweet chili sauce and lime juice. Cook until the meat is crumbled and cooked through. Stir in the chopped cilantro and sesame oil at the end of the cooking time.
To serve, arrange the lettuce leaves around the edge of a platter then spoon the chicken mixture in center. To eat, spoon a small amount of chicken onto a lettuce leaf, drizzle with a little dipping sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, or Thai sweet chili sauce, add a squeeze of fresh lime, roll and enjoy.
Mix 3 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. fish sauce, 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice, and 1 tsp. sesame oil, and crushed red chili flakes, ground chili or shiracha to taste.
Another Dipping Sauce that you might enjoy:
Thai Dipping Sauce
Mix 3 Tbsp. fish sauce, 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice, 1 tsp. each of brown sugar and soy sauce, 1/2 – 1 tsp. crushed red chili flakes, and 1 green onion thinly sliced.
If you would like a little crunch to the wraps, you can add chopped water chestnuts, red bell peppers, julienned carrots or chopped peanuts to the dish. As I mentioned, there are endless variations of lettuce wraps to suit your taste. I hope you will try making the Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps as an appetizer or part of a light and very flavorful summer meal.