Vegan Lettuce Wraps

If you’ve ever been to P.F. Chang’s, you’ve probably had a heart-attack-on-a-plate version of this. Basically, they bring you a bowl of what looks like corned beef (but it’s not), a pile of iceberg lettuce cups, and some sauce, and then they leave you to figure out what to do next.

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But when you DO figure it out, you die a little with happiness. You spoon some of the filling into the lettuce cup, top off with the sauce, and then eat it like a little Asian taco. It sounds all hippie and weird, but trust me, the lettuce wrap is a cool, crunchy contrast to the warm, chewy filling.

Also, a disclaimer: now that we’re living in a new place, I’m still trying to figure out the lighting and whatnot, so you’ll have to bear with me on the shoddy photography for a while.

The good news is that this has only a handful of ingredients, so you won’t be at the grocery store trying to figure out where the eff to find “heart of ginger” or “lavendar sea salt.” The bad news is that this is one of those recipes that you basically have to keep tasting until you have the flavors right. Each time I make it, it comes out a leedle bit differently from the last time – so my advice is to just taste and taste and adjust and adjust after you’ve added all of the ingreeds.

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Speaking of the ingreeds (serves 2 people with some left over for lunch – I made doubled this recipe for four people and we had enough left over for two lunches):

  • 3 mushrooms, about 1.5-2 inches in diameter. I don’t know what kind. I don’t know mushrooms. The picture above shows the kind I used.
  • 1 large, white or yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced (or in paste)
  • 2 blocks of hard tofu (with savory flavoring, if available)
  • A handful of cashews
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil (and a dash of smoked sesame oil, if you have it)
  • 4 tablespoons Tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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For the sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce (or peanut butter, if you’re me and don’t have oyster sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

One of those little round choppers would be AMAZING while making this recipe. Otherwise, get out your best chopping knife (or Santoku, because let’s be honest – is there any better kind of blade?) and mince EVERYTHING. The mushrooms, the onion, the tofu, the cashews, the sesame oil…just kidding about the oil. Everything should be in small pieces, no larger than quarter-inch cubes.

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See how small? I wasn’t kidding.

Anyway, to prepare this is ridonkulously easy. Heat half of the sesame oil in your pan. Then just throw in each ingredient, one at a time, and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes before adding the next. Just go down then ingredient list: mushrooms first, followed by onions, then tofu, then cashews. Then add the rest of your seasoning ingredients: soy sauce, the rest of the sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and pepper. The reason you add this last is because soy products lose their flavor over time in cooking, so then you’d keep adding more to get the flavor right and you’d end up with a salty mess. Trust me.

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Reduce the heat on the filling and let it simmer together for a while, stirring occasionally. Next, slice off the stem of your lettuce along with about half an inch or so of the iceberg’s ass, and cut that em-effer in half from top to bottom. Stick it in the fridge until ready to serve.

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To make the sauce, just put everything in a bowl and stir. It doesn’t get much easier than that. I ended up heating mine because I was putting peanut butter in and  it wasn’t stirring together, but normally you wouldn’t need to do that. Also, these are perfectly good without the sauce, but it’s nice to have the extra component.

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 When everything else is prepared, you’re ready to serve. If you’re not going to serve it immediately, though, turn off the heat so the soy flavor stays strong, and reheat slowly when the time comes.

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The preparation of this shizz isn’t very sexy or challenging, but most dinner guests have never considered making something like this so they’ll be impressed at your ingenuity. Plus, if you really want some Martha Stewart points, tell them you made the tofu from scratch or something. I won’t tell if you won’t.


5 Comments to “Vegan Lettuce Wraps”

  1. Ooooo, what a perfectly summery recipe. Making this sooooooon. And I never have plum, oyster, or hoisin sauce. I fail at embodying foodieness.

  2. Mmm I’m having such a craving for these now! Looks good!

  3. Sweeeeeet! I cracked up at your beginning descriptions of P.F. Chang’s and the ingredients – so true. I never considered making this dish on my own before and I think you’re definitely right, it’ll be impressive even though it’s simple. Thanks for the idea!

  4. making them right now. thanks for the recipe!!

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