Spicy Asian Lettuce Wraps

August is one of the best times for farm produce - tomatoes, zucchini, peppers are in abundance. I loved getting my weekly CSA distribution but it was challenging to find a way to use all my vegetables. This recipe for lettuce wraps is one way I found to use my summer veggies.


The nice thing about this recipe is its versatility. You may switch out vegetables or make it more/less spicy depending on your taste. If you don't like turkey you can use chicken or pork or even tofu. Use this recipe is a guide and experiment to find the right mix of protein and vegetables for you.

I use a mixture of fresh, dried, and canned vegetables in this recipe. I like the variety of tastes and textures - from the meatiness of the black Chinese mushrooms to the crunch of water chestnuts and the freshness of the farm vegetables - they all come together beautifully.


A word about prep...


Like most Chinese dishes, the key to this recipe is prepping everything before you start cooking. When chopping the vegetables, you want everything to be about the same size so they'll easily fit into the lettuce cups.

  • Zucchini, peppers, and onions - cut into ¼" dice
  • Fresh mushrooms (white button, enoki, oyster, etc.) - roughly chop into smaller pieces, they will cook down
  • Dried black Chinese mushrooms - soak and then cut into ¼" dice
  • Hot peppers - chop finely; discard seeds and ribs, if desired, to reduce the amount of heat in the dish
  • Water chestnuts - use sliced instead of whole for easier chopping. Be sure to rinse well to remove the tinny taste. Cut into rough, small dice. If you're able to find fresh water chestnuts that would be preferable but they can be difficult to find and take more time to peel and prep


Spicy Asian Lettuce Wraps


3 tablespoons oil
1 pound ground chicken or turkey (I use a mixture of white and dark meat)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or to taste)
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 medium zucchini, chopped into ¼" dice
1 red bell pepper, chopped into ¼" dice
1 hot pepper, minced, seeds and ribs removed if desired
1 cup fresh mushroom, minced (white button, enoki, oyster, or other fresh mushroom)
1 cup dried Chinese black mushrooms, reconstituted and minced
2 6-ounce cans water chestnuts, minced
½ cup cilantro, chopped (or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter or Iceburg lettuce

Stir Fry Sauce

2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon Mirin or rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce

Special Sauce

¼ cup sugar
½ cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Mirin or rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons ketchup
⅛ teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon prepared hot mustard (like Coleman's)
2 teaspoon chili garlic paste (or to taste)

In a small bowl, mix the ingredients for the stir fry sauce and set aside.

In another bowl, mix the ingredients for the special sauce and refrigerate until ready for serving.

Separate the leaves of lettuce, clean under cold water and drain. Set aside until ready for serving.

In a wok or large frying pan, heat half of the oil. Brown the chicken or turkey until thoroughly cooked. Remove from the pan and set aside, draining any excess oil or liquid.

Heat the remaining oil. Add the onions and fry until translucent but not browned. Add crushed red pepper and garlic and fry for about 30 seconds. Add the zucchini, bell pepper, and hot pepper and fry for about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook down until the mushrooms release their liquid. Add the stir fry sauce and salt and pepper as needed. Turn off the heat and add the cilantro.

To serve, fill the lettuce leaves with the filling and top with the special sauce.


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