Thai Minced Chicken Lettuce Cups
This dish is similar to Larb Gai, the Thai dish made from minced chicken, fish sauce, lime juice, chilies and fresh herbs. The combination of sweet, salty, tangy and spicy flavors makes it highly addictive. In fact, I have to force myself to put the leftovers in the fridge immediately before starting the dishes, otherwise I’ll eat them straight from the pan while no one is watching! And did I mention it’s quick? You can walk in the door at six o’clock and be eating by six-thirty.
As you can see from the photo, the recipe is inexpensive to make with ingredients found at your regular supermarket. You might have to search a bit for the fish sauce but most grocery stores carry it in the Asian foods aisle. Contrary to what you might expect, it doesn’t add a “fishy” taste, but rather a salty, savory flavor. If you’ve never cooked with it, I’ll warn you that it smells pretty bad (my kids RUN out of the kitchen when I use it) but please don’t let that deter you — it absolutely makes the dish! If possible, buy a brand imported from Thailand or Vietnam, and don’t worry about buying a large bottle; it keeps forever. (The brand I use is Tiparos, which is pretty strong. Some brands, like Kame for example, are milder so you may need to add a bit more to get the desired flavor.) The other Asian sauce in the recipe is Sriracha, the hot sauce named after the coastal city of Si Racha in Thailand, which you can also find it in the Asian foods aisle of most grocery stores.
Begin with the lettuce cups. Slice off the base stem of the lettuce, then run your knife around the inner core to remove.
Remove the flimsy, ragged outer leaves and submerge the head of lettuce in a bowl of water. The water will help you pull the leaves apart; if you try to pull them apart without the water, they will inevitably tear.
Place the lettuce cups on a paper towel to dry, then chill until ready to serve.
For the chicken, begin by cooking the onions and ginger in oil until soft.
Add the minced garlic and cook one minute more.
Add the ground chicken and use a wooden spoon to break the meat apart.
Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, lime zest, lime juice, brown sugar and red pepper flakes, and cook until the chicken is done.
Finally, stir in the fresh cilantro, mint and nuts.
Spoon into lettuce cups and serve with finely sliced carrots, herbs and one of my favorite condiments, spicy Sriracha sauce. Enjoy!
Thai Minced Chicken Lettuce Cups
- 1 large head iceberg or butter lettuce
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger (you'll need a thick 2-inch piece)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 pounds ground chicken (not all breast meat)
- 1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce (use gluten-free if needed)
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce (see note*)
- 1/4 cup light or dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons lime zest, from 2 limes
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, from 1-1/2 limes
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 large scallions, white and green parts, finely sliced
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
- 1/4 cup chopped cashews or peanuts
Optional For Serving
- Finely sliced carrots
- Lime wedges
- Cilantro and/or mint sprigs
- Fill a large bowl with cold water. Place the head of lettuce on a cutting board; cut off the stem, then cut around the inner core of the lettuce and remove (do not cut all the way through the lettuce; just deep enough to remove the core). Discard the flimsy, ragged outer leaves and then place the head of lettuce in the bowl of water. Gently pull apart the leaves, then place them on a paper towel to dry. Cut any large leaves in half. Chill the lettuce cups in refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Heat the oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
- Add the ground chicken and turn the heat up to high. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until partially cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, lime zest, lime juice and red pepper flakes and continue cooking, stirring frequently to break up the meat, until the chicken is cooked through, 5-6 minutes more. Off the heat, stir in the scallions, cilantro, mint and nuts. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Spoon into lettuce cups and serve with optional garnishes.
- *Note that some brands of fish sauce are stronger than others. If using a milder fish sauce (such as Kame brand) you'll need to add about a tablespoon more.
- Per serving (4 servings)
- Calories: 580
- Fat: 33g
- Saturated fat: 7g
- Carbohydrates: 30g
- Sugar: 20g
- Fiber: 4g
- Protein: 45g
- Sodium: 1565mg
- Cholesterol: 195g
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