Saturday, June 19, 2010

Chicken Cashew Lettuce Wraps

photo by missamy

soooo, after moving, i have yet to unearth my camera.  it is here---somewhere---so i'm borrowing the picture from the original recipe :)

if you are a fan of a particular chain chinese food restaurant's lettuce wraps, these are for you!  so incredibly tasty and really rather easy to make.  the recipe below reflects my adaptations to the original posted by missamy on

my notes:
*if you like sauciness, use the recipe below as written (i doubled the original because i like extra sauce, especially when serving over rice).  if you like just enough sauce to flavor the chicken, you can easily 1/2 the recipe below to get that good glaze without extra dripping.

*my mouth wimps out when it comes to spicy foods.  i reduced the ground red pepper by half, but you could easily amp it up to meet your own spicy tolerance (mine is very low).

*you could easily use grated ginger in this recipe for a bit of additional freshness

*i enjoyed these using green leaf lettuce as a wrapper (not just a "plate" as seen in the picture).  i have had the restaurant version with iceberg lettuce, and though i liked the additional crunchiness of iceberg, it cracked every time and left the filling dropping everywhere.

*if using for a main dish, i would recommend a side of rice to add some bulk to the whole meal.  the prepared chicken with additional sauce would be great served on rice instead of in lettuce as well.

*if you plan on making enough for microwavable leftovers, leave the cashews out of the whole amount of prepared food and only sprinkle it on each serving---i learned the interesting way that cashews drenched in this sauce turn hard and black in the microwave :)  that's why i'm here, so you don't have to make those mistakes :)

*do not fear the ingredient of sesame oil.  i avoided recipes with it because i thought it would be expensive or i would have to go to a specialty shop.  but alas, i was wrong!  (yay for times like this where being wrong means i get great food!)  i found sesame oil in the ethnic food section at a very run-of-the-mill grocery store on the top shelf with the chinese food.  the bottle was about half the size of a typical soy sauce bottle, for about $2.50 but recipes tend to use it only a teaspoon or tablespoon at a time so this one bottle will last me quite a while.  check back later for more sesame-oil-using's my new favorite ingredient!

with that, here is my adaptation to the original recipe.

Chicken Cashew Lettuce Wraps
adapted from missamy at

2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger (or 1/2 tsp ground ginger)
2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
(optional: 1/2 tsp cornstarch if you want a saucy sauce.  if you are halving the recipe, leave out the cornstarch)
1.5 lbs chicken, cut in bite-sized pieces
2 cups diced onion (or 1/2 cup dried minced reconstituted in about that much water)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 cup cashews
green leaf lettuce
sesame seeds to garnish

mix the first six ingredients in a small bowl and set aside (a ramekin is big enough).  brown chicken until just cooked through.  remove from heat.  put onions, garlic and 2 tsp soy sauce in the pan; brown.  when onions and garlic are tender, add chicken and sauce mix (if all will be served at the same time, you can add the cashews here---if making enough for leftovers, leave out the cashews and sprinkle them over individual servings).  sprinkle with cornstarch (if using) and saute for a few minutes until blended well and heated through.  serve with lettuce leaves for wrapping (or over rice).  sprinkle with sesame seeds.

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