Monday, January 23, 2012

My ONE Year Anniversary, Chinese New Year and Thai-Style Chicken Lettuce Cups

"Xianan kuàilè!" or "Gōng xǐ fā cá!" In plain English, happy lunar new year!! I am taking it as a very auspicious sign that the year of the Dragon this year falls on my ONE year blog-iversary. Woohoo!! I made it over the hump...whew!!

I have so much to be thankful for and reflect on for 2012. But most of all, thank you to all of you out there for your support this past year! Sometimes you wonder if anyone is actually reading what you write. So I am always pleasantly happy to hear back from readers and friends about a post they read. So continue reading please as I have many yummy recipes cooking away for you this year! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Last year's Chinese New Year feast consisted of some more traditional dishes. So this year, I was determined to bring you something a bit different and unexpected. While doing some research for new ideas, I came upon chicken lettuce cups. Always a favorite when we're at Cheesecake Factory or at any restaurant that serves it!

It was a surprise to me to find out that it is actually a traditional dish from northern China as the word "lettuce" in Cantonese actually sounds like "rising fortune." Of course, that traditional version like all other Chinese-American food has very different flavors than what we are used to here in the US. Unfortunately for you readers, you won't get that recipe here because I like to bastardize recipes as much as the next person and twist it around to suit my palate! BUT, I will say that you will not be disappointed with my version. Pinky swear. The sweet and sour aspects of this dish with a touch of heat is quintessentially Thai. Roasted peanuts and the pickled apple and carrot slaw add a nice texture and crunch to the lettuce cups.

Vegetarians, take heart! The chicken can easily be replaced with extra firm tofu. All the components of this dish can also be made the night before and then assembled right before your guests arrive for an easy weeknight dinner party.

Serves 4

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped into small pieces

1 Thai red chile, sliced thinly

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger, minced
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp Shaoxing wine
8 lettuce leaves
Cilantro (optional)
Roasted peanuts (optional)
1 Lime, quartered (optional)
Pickled apple and carrot slaw (recipe follows)
Peanut sauce (recipe follows)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat and add chicken. Season with pinch salt and pepper. Add chiles to skillet. Cook until chicken is no longer pink on outside, approximately 5 minutes.

2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together next 8 ingredients. Add to chicken and cook down until sauce is slightly thickened, approximately 5 minutes. remove from heat and keep warm.
3. Prepare lettuce cups. Dollop about 2 tbsp chicken mixture per cup. Top with peanuts, slaw and sauce to taste. Serve with lime wedges on side.

Pickled Apple and Carrot Slaw
Makes 2 cups

1/2 apple, cut into thin matchsticks
1 whole carrot, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp sugar

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Let sit in refrigerator for up no less for one hour for it to pickle. Serve cold.

Peanut Sauce
Makes 1 cup

1/3 cup peanut butter, smooth
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup hot water

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth. Serve at room temperature.

1 comment:

  1. Love these...I'll totally make them with tofu or seitan. Happy new year and one year blog anniversary's hard to believe that it's been a year already! You're doing a great job :-)