It’s A Wrap

Whenever I am in the US, it has now become tradition to have lunch at the nearest Cheesecake Factory on my last day. I am always amused, or rather bemused, by the sheer portion sizes and the amount of food that is carried through on those huge serving trays.

Cheesecake factory Asian lettuce wrapsMy choice tends to be a little more restrained: I adore their salads, and I love their Asian lettuce wraps. This recipe is unashamedly inspired by the latter.

But I’ve added a few special touches: I’m serving Vietnamese Prawns as well as Lemon and Garlic chicken. You could add some of my Char Siu Pork too if you like.

There’s cold noodles, bean sprouts and also my beloved quick Cucumber Kimchi and an easy Carrot and Mooli pickle for that extra refreshing touch.

My dipping sauces are Papaya Hot Sauce, a Vietnamese Peanut Sauce and Honey, Lime and Soy Sauce .

With so many fillings and so many sauces, every bite is a new discovery.

quick cucumber kimchiBut the real beauty of this dish is that you can change this up whichever way you fancy with your favourite dips and fillings.  Just make sure not all your dipping sauces are spicy, or sweet, or similar colour or viscosity. Variety is the spice of life.

Then present everything on a nice platter , either per person or for everyone to dig into and share family-style.

This is a perfect stand alone lunch or light supper, but also as part of a larger buffet. I recently served this as part of a relaxed “DIY wrap” themed party:

starter:

Italian Tagliata Sharing Platter (which features peaches wrapped in Prosciutto)

Main course:

Tortilla wraps, Tortilla stand ‘n stuff or Lettuce  with  Chicken, Prawns, Cowboy Caviar, Avocado Sour Cream Drizzle, Papaya Hot Sauce  or Pineapple Salsa

Bao Buns with Char Siu Pork or  Vietnamese Chicken Salad  , Cucumber Kimchi and Quick Carrot and Mooli Pickle

Asian lettuce wraps with Prawns, Chicken, Char Siu pork and Dipping Sauces

Dessert:

We were due to finish off with a Peach and Pistachio Galette (puff pastry loosely wrapped around the outside edge of a heap of juicy peaches), but we didn’t get round to it and finished with an Anglo-French cheese board with chutneys instead.

THE RECIPES

Asian Lettuce Wraps with Dipping sauces   (serves 4 – GF DF RSF LC)

asian prawn and chicken lettuce wraps

Ingredients

For the marinated chicken:

300 gr chicken breast or thigh meat, cut into bite sized strips

1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari if you need this to be gluten free

1 tbsp honey

Juice of a lemon

1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed

3-4 tbsp rapeseed oil or other neutral vegetable oil plus a little extra for stir-frying unless grilling

S&P

For the marinated prawns:

300 gr king prawns, deveined

1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed

a good thumb of fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 fresh lemongrass stalk, outer leaf removed, finely chopped

1 red chili, seeds in or out, finely chopped

a small handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped

3-4 tbsp rapeseed oil or other neutral vegetable oil plus a little extra for stir-frying unless grilling

asian prawn and chicken lettuce wraps

To serve:

Plenty of Cos or little gem lettuce leaves, washed, dried and separated. you could add some rice paper wraps as well.

4 small handfuls of cold cooked noodles (egg, rice, glass or bean)

4 small handfuls of raw beansprouts, rinsed and dried

Honey, Soy and Lime Dipping Sauce (see below)

Papaya Hot Sauce

Vietnamese Peanut Dipping Sauce (see below)

Quick Cucumber Kimchi

Easy Carrot and Mooli Pickle (see below)

a small handful of fresh coriander

S&P

asian prawn and chicken lettuce wraps

Method

Combine the marinade ingredients  for the chicken and then combine the marinade ingredients for the prawns. Add each to a separate large zip lock bag and add the chicken to the chicken marinade, and the prawns to the prawn marinade. Zip to close, then massage the contents about in the marinade until well covered.

Flatten the bags out and chill in the fridge for at least an hour. Be careful not to marinade for too long, as the lemon in the marinades will gradually start to “cook” the protein.

When ready to serve either grill, chargrill or stir fry the chicken and prawns with a little oil in separate pans or woks until cooked about 5-8 mins or so.  Check the seasoning. These can be served hot or cold, so you could cook this in advance and chill until needed.

asian prawn and chicken lettuce wraps

To Serve:

Arrange the salad leaves on a large platter, either individual ones per person or a huge serving one for all to share. Add generous mounds of the prawns and the chicken. Divide the sauces over dipping bowls and add to the platter, or serve in pretty jars along side with separate dipping bowels for people to help themselves.

Add healthy heaps of the kimchi, the noodles, the bean sprouts and the pickle. Don’t forget to add plenty of fresh coriander too.

To assemble:

Pick up a lettuce leaf or two and add a little of either prawn or chicken, then add any combo of filling you like. Don’t overfill or you risk spilling the lot all down your front. Wrap up best you can and then dip into your favourite sauce.

Devour. It’s gonna be messy, but it’s gonna be worth it.

Soy, Honey and Lime Dipping Sauce

asian prawn and chicken lettuce wraps

Combine equal parts of honey, lime juice and soy in a blender, mini food processor, or simply whisk together. For instance 4 tbsp of each. I like using my beloved Indonesian Ketjap Manis (sweet soy sauce), but you can use any other ketjap, light or dark soy, or  tamari. to make it gluten free.

Taste and adjust with more of each if needed to balance to your own taste. This will happily keep in the fridge in a screwtop jar for some weeks.

asian prawn and chicken lettuce wraps

Vietnamese Peanut Dipping Sauce (makes a small jar – GF LC RSF)

Credit where credit is due: the prawn marinade and dipping sauce are both adapted from a lovely little recipe I found online

Ingredients

1/2 a thumb of fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated

1-2 cloves or garlic, finely chopped or crushed

1-2 red chili, seeds in or out, finely chopped

Juice and zest of 3 limes

100 ml mirin

4 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1/2 tbsp fish sauce

2 tbsp soy sauce

100 gr best quality peanut butter, smooth or with bits (I like bits and use a 100% organic peanut butter with no added anything)

a little water if needed

4-6 tbsp rapeseed oil or other neutral vegetable oil

a pinch of salt if you think it needs it.

Optional to garnish:

1-2  tbsp finely chopped fresh mint

1-2  tbsp  finely chopped fresh coriander

2 tbsp plain unsalted roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

Method

Blitz together the sauce ingredients except the oil in a blender, or whisk in a bowl. Then slowly add the oil as you keep blending or whisking, as you would for a mayonnaise. Garnish with the fresh herbs and peanuts, if using (I forgot!)

Vietnamese peanut dipping or stir fry sauce

Quick Carrot and Mooli Pickle (makes a 500 ml jar – GF DF LC V Vg RSF)

Julienne, roughly grate  or spiralize enough equal quantities of carrot and mooli (AKA Daikon or Japanese radish)  to pack out a 500 ml jar. Mix together equal parts of coconut palm sugar or other unrefined sugar and rice vinegar in tbsp.

Pour the dressing over the mooli and carrot, seal and chill for a couple of hours. Turn it upside down once in a while to ensure the pickling juices get everywhere in between.

Fabulous stuffed into my bao buns with Char Siu Pork, or use in lettuce or rice paper wraps.This will happiy keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks, but I doubt it’ll last that long

Quick carrot and mooli pickle

Leftovers

Mix any left over noodles with any left over veggies and peanut sauce. Top with left over herbs, spring onions and peanuts. Lovely hot or cold as light meal or snack..

The peanut and honey sauce are fantastic stir-fry sauces. The papaya hot sauce works well as part of a BBQ buffet.

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