Chinese Chicken Lettuce Cups
2 tbl corn starch
3 tbl water or chicken stock
2 tbl soy sauce
2 tbl oyster sauce
1 tbl toasted sesame seed oil
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
4 tbl Shaohsing Wine (Chinese cooking wine – can substitute dry sherry – but will be a little different)
1 -1/2 tbl baking soda
1 chicken breast half or 2-3 chicken thighs (boneless, skinless – cut crosswise as thinly as possible)
2 tbl peanut oil (or rice oil if there are peanut allergies)
1 peeled carrot (lengthwise in half, then cut with a rolling 1/4 inch slice)
2 stalks celery (peeled, then cut with a rolling ¼ inch slice) (or ½ small can of sliced water chestnuts cut in half crosswise)
6 Cremini mushrooms (or 2 baby portabella or 3-4 shitake) stems removed, sliced ½ thick
1 small zucchini (optional) (sliced in quarters lengthwise, then sliced into rolling ½ inch slices)
1/4 red bell pepper (if not using a carrot) sliced into 2” long and ¼” wide slices
2-3 green onions –white part –slices crosswise ¼”
2 cloves garlic – chopped coarsely (not too fine or it will burn)
1 tbl finely minced ginger
1 head Little Gem Lettuce (Or Iceberg) –We like little Gem because the leaves are a uniform boat shape, and result in less waste than iceberg lettuce.
2-3 green onions – green part – sliced thinly crosswise or on a 45 degree angle.
Once the chicken is sliced cross-grain as thinly as possible, pat it dry, place into a small bowl, sprinkle with the baking soda, mix well to distribute and set aside for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, rinse thoroughly, blot dry on paper towels and place on a dry plate into the refrigerator until ready to cook.
While the chicken is being tenderized by the baking soda, assemble the sauce in a small bowl or glass jar and stir well to incorporate the soy sauce - you may need to give it a good stir again right when you are ready to use it.
Wash and slice all the vegetables, garlic and ginger as described in the ingredients list and place each into a small separate bowl.
NOTE: At this point, you can place everything in the refrigerator until about 15-20 minutes before you want to serve the lettuce cups. (If you do this prep work in the morning, you can have a delicious dish ready to eat within 20 minutes of getting home.)
When you are ready to cook, set out your plates and put 1-2 nice lettuce “cups/boats” on each plate. Heat a deep sauté pan or a wok to medium high, add the peanut oil and swirl a couple of times to evenly coat the pan. Add the ginger and stir briskly for a few seconds, then add the garlic and stir briskly – be very careful not to burn the garlic. As soon as the garlic starts to color even a little bit (15 seconds or so) add the carrots and the celery and stir well for 1-2 minutes ---then add the mushrooms and stir for another 1-2 minutes. Push the vegetables to one side of the pan and add the chicken. Stir often and break it up with your spatula ---it will tend to clump together. As the chicken starts to loose color and become opaque, stir it back into the vegetables and add the white parts of the green onions and any other vegetables that you are choosing to add to the dish. Keep stirring over medium-high heat until the chicken is just cooked through –another 2 minutes or so. Then pour all of the stir fry sauce over the chicken and vegetables– toss to coat well, let this cook until it had thickened a bit and is coating all the chicken and vegetables with a glossy coating ----don’t let it cook until the dish is dry. Spoon into the lettuce cups, garnish with a sprinkle of green onions and (optional: a few crisp chow mein noodles or a few crushed peanuts or cashews). Serve right away.
HINTS: If you have left over chicken and vegetables, save it and add it to Chinese noodles for a nice chow mein, or chill it and wrap it into rice papers to make spring rolls along with extra lettuce, some fresh slivers of ginger, and more green onion, or use it as a filing for an omelet. Sometimes, we double the recipe to make sure that there are left overs for these other uses! Also this can easily be made vegetarian by skipping the chicken and adding more of each vegetable – particularly more mushrooms.
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