Rarely do I buy iceberg lettuce. In fact, I can’t think of the last time I did. Two years ago, maybe? I prefer darker leafy greens, such as romaine, green leaf, or even spinach and arugula. Besides, iceberg is the true “anti-gourmet” lettuce, right? Well, an article in Saveur magazine last month made me think outside of my little “I’m-too-good-for-iceberg-lettuce” box. Although iceberg may not pack as much nutrition as some of the other lettuces available, it does have its merits. It’s amazingly crisp, for one, making it an ideal textural contrast for your sandwich or tacos. Unlike other (sometimes bitter) greens, it’s very mild. And it’s not like iceberg is unhealthy - with zero grams of fat, and about 15 calories per serving, it’s hardly anything to worry about. But it’s iceberg’s cool, crunchy texture that made it the ideal choice for these wraps.
Lettuce wraps are something I’ve never made at home. I never really gave them much thought, honestly. Sure, I enjoy them at restaurants, but usually, I look for something more substantial to prepare for dinner at home. However, it’s nearing summer (they are predicting temperatures in the mid-90s this weekend!), and I’m craving lighter fare. So when I came across the recipe in Saveur for Saang Choy Bao, or Chinese Minced Chicken Wraps, I immediately started scribbling down iceberg lettuce on my grocery list. After all, the recipe sounded so delicious! And then, to find out that Bee Yin Low over at Rasa Malaysia wrote the recipe? Definite bonus, as her blog is amazing, and I’ve made a few of her recipes in the past…they definitely do not disappoint! Another added benefit: this recipe takes almost no time to prepare, making it a perfect weeknight dinner.
And a perfect weeknight dinner it was. I substituted lean ground pork for the ground chicken, as it was what I had on hand, and it worked perfectly. The oyster sauce and shitakes added a nice savory note to the dish, but the sweet Asian chile sauce, in my opinion, was what truly kept you coming back for more. And the iceberg lettuce? It lightened the whole dish, and added that necessary snap! that took this dish from “Pretty Tasty” to “Yum!” My husband (the skeptical one) really enjoyed this dish, and suggested we put it into regular rotation. As Asian fare is not usually his favorite, I consider that to be a great compliment. Iceberg lettuce just might be making a comeback!
As for locating the harder to find ingredients, such as oyster sauce and sweet Asian chile sauce: both can be found in an Asian market, or in the Asian section of most grocery stores.
1 lb lean ground pork
20 cashews, roughly chopped
3 dried shitake mushroom, softened in hot water, stemmed and finely chopped
3 scallions, 2 finely chopped, the green part of 1 finely julienned
4 t soy sauce
1 T oyster sauce
1 T rice wine or dry sherry
1 t cornstarch
1/2 t sugar
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 T peanut oil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
16 iceberg lettuce leaves
Sweet Asian chile sauce
Put pork, cashews, mushrooms, and chopped scallions in a bowl. Combine soy sauce, oyster sauce, wine, cornstarch, sugar, and pepper in a bowl. Pour over pork and toss. Let marinate for 15 minutes.
Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add garlic, cook for 10 seconds. Add pork mixture, and cook, stirring and crumbling with spatula, until browned, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer pork into a bowl. To serve, spoon a little of the pork into each lettuce leaf. Garnish with julienned scallion and a little chile sauce.
Serves 4 as a first course. Pair with fried rice and steamed veggies for a complete meal.