Lettuce wraps are a menu item offered at many Asian restaurants. They’re typically made with a delicious filling of either ground chicken, vegetables, mushrooms, pressed tofu or an assortment of other ingredients, stir-fried with hoisin sauce—and served on Romaine lettuce leaves or in a Butter Lettuce cup. The dish may sound simple, but it’s positively delicious and addicting!
Lettuce wraps gained visibility in America when they were featured on the menu of P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, the Asian-themed casual dining restaurant chain that started in 1993. P.F. Chang’s waiters routinely offered this dish (chicken or vegetarian versions) as appetizers or stand-alone meals to all their customers, and it has since become the restaurant’s most popular signature dish, bringing hordes of diners coming back for more.
Before long, lettuce wraps found their way to many other restaurants like Rock Sugar Pan Asian Kitchen, and even pubs like Yardhouse, both of which serve stellar versions of the tasty dish.
As part of the Underground Health Reporter’s Meatless Monday issue, I’m featuring a recipe that’s a copycat of the popular Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps served at P.F. Chang’s. It’s a tasty, low-carb, low-calorie (less than 200 calories for a large serving) recipe that’s vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free. Its protein component is pan-friend pressed tofu seasoned with hoisin sauce, a thick, fragrant sauce commonly used in Chinese dishes, and is available in a bottle at supermarkets and Asian markets. Whole Foods even carries its own brand of organic hoisin sauce.
Best of all, these vegetarian lettuce wraps are quick and easy to prepare in less than 30 minutes—and you can enjoy this high-protein, flavorful dish at home as an appetizer or dinner entrée, and serve it to guests who will thank you for it. Even those who are not fans of tofu will enjoy this dish – even kids! Once you’ve learned how to make these addicting lettuce wraps, they may become your signature dish, too.
Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce (I use 365 Organic Hoisin Sauce from Whole Foods)
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons light olive oil (not extra-virgin) or other mild-tasting cooking oil
1 package extra-firm tofu (14-ounces)
8 ounces shitake (or crimini) mushrooms, finely chopped
1 can water chestnuts (8 ounces), drained and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
4 green onions thinly sliced, divided
8 large inner leaves romaine lettuce from a romaine heart or butter lettuce leaves
Optional: ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (if you want a hint of spice)
In a small bowl, stir the hoisin, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil together. Set aside.
Press the tofu between paper towels to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Discard the used paper towel, put fresh paper towel sheets and press again. Slice the pressed tofu into small, ¼-inch cubes.
Heat the 2 teaspoons light olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high. Once the oil is hot, put in the pressed tofu cubes, and stir-fry. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, then add the diced mushrooms, and cook until any remaining tofu liquid evaporates and the tofu cubes start to brown, about 3 minutes. Stir in the water chestnuts, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes (if you want spice), and half of the green onions. Cook until fragrant, about half a minute more.
Pour the sauce over the top of the tofu mixture and stir to coat evenly. Cook about a minute more until the sauce is warmed through.
Spoon the tofu mixture into individual lettuce leaves. Top with remaining green onions. Serve and enjoy immediately.