The first time I visited PF Changs in the theatre district of Boston, was with a large group of friends to see The Lion King musical. Each person in the group thought the next person had made dinner reservations. We ended up at the Asian-style restaurant chain PF Changs as it was our only option for last-minute seating of a large group. The food was fine but the chicken lettuce wraps were pretty awesome.
Over the years I’ve made variations of them at home with ground chicken but I recently had a vegetarian friend over for dinner. I had lettuce wraps in mind but all of the recipes I searched for included tofu. And I’m not a tofu fan. Yes, I’ve had good tofu. No, I still don’t love it.
This got me thinking about mushrooms. A good mushroom has a great meaty flavor and texture, it’s rich in umami and it’s not a “pretending to be meat” option. As luck would have it, there was a great selection of mushrooms in our local Whole Foods in Portland, ME and at the Portland Farmers Market (Wed and Sat).
So here it is. A great recipe for when you have a vegetarian friend over or when you’re just thinking about reducing the amount of meat you eat. Pairs well with a light Chinese beer like Tsingtao or a dryer Riesling like Kung Fu girl. Don’t be alarmed by the length of the ingredients in the recipe, it’s mostly just a bunch of vegetables and some store-cupboard/fridge-door staples!
Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps in the style of PF Chang
Author: Mainely Eating – a Maine Food Blog all about home cooking and fine dining in Maine
~20 oz of mushrooms. I used a mix of white, shitake, oyster and enoki.
3 carrots, peeled and finely diced
1 half onion, peeled and finely diced
2 sticks celery, finely diced
1tbsp vegetable oil
A few drops of sesame oil
1-3 cloves of minced garlic (depending on how garlic-y you like things)
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (with a microplane) or finely chopped
2 tbsp rice wine (Mirin)
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1-3 tsp sriracha hot sauce (depending on how hot you like it!) plus extra for serving
2 tbsp+ of water (if needed)
1 lime – half of it cut into wedges, half of it juiced
A small handful of roasted, unsalted cashew nut pieces or halves
1 small can (8oz) of sliced or whole waterchestnuts – diced
A large handful of beansprouts plus extra for serving
1 whole head of Bibb, Butter or Iceberg lettuce
As with most Asian-style recipes, the cooking happens pretty quickly so you want to have all of your vegetables chopped and ready to go before you start cooking.
- Carefully separate the leaves of the lettuce, wash and dry in a salad spinner.
- Set up everything ready for serving – lettuce leaves, small dish of sriracha, small dish of beansprouts, small dish of lime wedges
- Over medium heat, in a large frying pan or wok, sauté onions, carrots and celery in the vegetable/sesame oil for ~3 minutes until they just start to soften but still have some crunch
- Add minced garlic and ginger and cook for another minute, stirring frequently
- Add finely chopped mushrooms and cook until they’re soft and starting to just turn golden and smell nuttty
- Add rice wine, soy sauce, hoisin and rice wine vinegar and stir thoroughly.
- Add cashew nuts and waterchestnuts and cook for 30 seconds
- Add enoki mushrooms (if using) and beansprouts. Stir to combine and remove from heat.
- Add the lime juice. If the mixture seems dry you can loosen it with a spoon or two of water.
- Serve in a warm bowl with lettuce leaves on the side for guests to make their own wraps or put a large spoon of the mushroom mix into each leaf.
This is a fairly forgiving recipe, and you can easily substitute in a different vegetable. Red or yellow bell peppers, raw diced jicama, baby corn, corn kernels are all great options! Scallions are also lovely chopped on the top – I just forgot to buy them 😉