Loosely inspired by Thailand’s delicious dish larb gai, this simple weeknight stunner is easy to prepare and fast to get on the table. It’s carb-free, too, thanks to the crisp Romaine wraps swaddling a delicious mix of chicken, garlic, hot pepper flakes and cilantro.
Nothing in this ingredient list should prove daunting: Instead of hard-to-find fresh chiles, the recipe calls for Italian hot pepper flakes and hot pepper sauce such as Sriracha. The most unusual ingredient, in fact, is fish sauce, which you should have at the ready anyways. (It’s wonderful in coconut-based soups.)
Thai lettuce cups are, in fact, perhaps the ideal summer and late-spring appetizers to serve at a party, and you could serve them to the whole family for supper if you’re taking a break from carbohydrates. To make the meal stretch, consider easy steamed dumplings, rice noodle soup, or pad Thai.
For a hot summer day when you don’t want to consider anything remotely heavy, however, we’ll be reaching for these lettuce wraps, to scarf all on their own.
Chicken in Lettuce Cups
- 3 Tbs. hoisin sauce
- 1 Tbs. rice vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce such as Sriracha (optional)
- 2 Tbs. peanut or canola oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 lb. (750 g) ground chicken
- 3 Tbs. Asian fish sauce
- 2 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup (1/2 oz./15 g) loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
- 3 Tbs. pine nuts, toasted
- 1 head romaine or iceberg lettuce
1. To make the sauce, in a small bowl, whisk together the hoisin, vinegar and hot sauce. Set aside.
2. In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté just until the garlic is soft, about 1 minute. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally and using your spoon to break up any clumps, until the meat is cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes.
3. Stir in the fish sauce, soy sauce and lemon juice. Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro and pine nuts.
4. To assemble, core and separate the lettuce head into individual leaves, using only the sturdy, cup-shaped leaves; reserve the flimsy or flat leaves for another use. Arrange 1 or 2 of the lettuce “cups” on each of 4 plates, or arrange smaller lettuce leaves on a platter for appetizers. Spoon the chicken mixture into each leaf. Drizzle with the sauce and serve immediately. Serves 4.
For more fresh ideas about how to prepare chicken, whether for a
quick family meal or an impressive weekend spread, check out our
Chicken Night: Dinner Solutions for Every Day of the Week.