After I posted the contents of my first CSA share, my dear darling sister made some disparaging comments about lettuce implying that it is only useful for salads and also that it’s “boring.”
Being the contrary creature that I am (Seriously, raise your hand if you have not done something just to spite your sibling. *cricket cricket* Riiiiiight.) I promptly emailed her a list of a half dozen non-salad lettuce recipes. There was stir-fried garlic lettuce, Korean-style lettuce-wrapped beef, lettuce and enoki mushroom soup (yum!), and some other options, too. She has not yet responded to my snark-o-gram, so I don’t know if I changed her mind or not.
One recipe that came up fairly often was for Asian lettuce wraps. These appetizers went mainstream thanks to P.F. Chang. While my husband argues that P.F. Chang admirably fills a hole in the market for sit-down Chinese food that also has a full bar, I counter with the facts that their limited vegetarian dishes make me feel like I am chewing a salt lick, and I’ve been sick after eating there twice. Let’s just say we don’t frequent the establishment.
Back to lettuce wraps. They’re usually made with two ingredients I don’t use: iceberg lettuce and meat. With a full head of Romaine left in my crisper, I figured it would work just fine in place of less-tasty, more conveniently-shaped iceberg lettuce leaves. In place of meat, I crumbled up some tempeh and called it a day. Or more accurately, lunch.
The recipe was very loosely based on this recipe from Rasa Malaysia. I substituted the vast majority of the ingredients, but I did cook the filling then wrap it in lettuce, so I guess you could say it helped. Also if you want to make them using chicken, follow those instructions because I don’t know how to cook meat. Sorry. If you want a delicious vegetarian lettuce wrap that requires few special ingredients, here you go!
While I make no claims whatsoever to this recipe being “authentic” in any way, it is tasty. None of the ingredients are weird or expensive. If you have an Asian grocery store nearby, get thee to it and purchase chili oil and toasted sesame oil. There are a few more oils and vinegars that can really ramp up basic Asian meals, but those two will take you far. Instead of the dipping sauce I list below (my catch-all “delicious Asian sauce of many uses”), hoisin sauce would work, as would a number of others. This one is handy because it only takes ingredients I already have in my kitchen.
Vegetarian Tempeh Lettuce Wraps
Makes about 4 lettuce wraps
4 whole leaves lettuce, rinsed and dried
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
4 ounces (about half a package) tempeh
2 shiitake mushrooms, dried
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 scallion, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon molasses (or substitute brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon corn starch
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon molasses (again, can sub brown sugar)
1 teaspoon chili oil
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1.) Cover the dried shiitake mushrooms with warm water and let stand about 20 minutes. Drain the water (or save it for mushroom stock!), squeeze the mushrooms gently, then remove their stems and mince them. Crumble up the tempeh with a fork into fairly small pieces. Combine tempeh and mushrooms; mix well. Combine soy sauce, vinegar, molasses, and corn starch, whisking to remove any lumps. Pour wet ingredients over filling and stir to combine. Let sit for 10 minutes.
2.) Combine all the ingredients for the dipping sauce in a small bowl. Stir well and let sit while you cook the filling.
3.) Heat peanut or vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and scallion, stirring until fragrant. Add tempeh mixture and cook, stirring often, until heated through and garlic is lightly browned but not burned. Tempeh is pre-cooked and just needs to be heated.
4.) Lay out your lettuce leaves and spoon the filling evenly into the middle. You can add the sauce on top of the filling, or serve it on the side and dip the wraps as you eat. If using shorter, round leaves, you can fold and eat them like hard-shell tacos. For my Romaine wraps, I tucked the long edges over and folded it in half. Serve immediately!
In the immortal words of the Pioneer Woman, pay no attention to the bony claw in that last photo.
But please go make yourself some lunch. Yum.