I’m not a fan of using recipes. I like to experiment, guess, and see what works out the best; but, I found my tastes were becoming narrow and generic. So I bought a cookbook. Buying a cookbook involves a lot of particulars for me – it needs a lot of recipes that I know I will cook and not just fillers to take up space. So I sit and flip through the entire thing before I make my decision. I will probably never buy a crockpot cookbook, if you know what I mean. I’m a huge fan of Asian food and in Culinary School I did really well in the class, so that narrowed my decision down easily, I got the Williams-Sonoma Asian Cookbook.
The Asian Cookbook, containing 40 vibrant recipes and photos, reminded me how many different ingredients and methods are used in Asian cooking. Sometimes I forget Asian isn’t only Japanese food or Chinese food but also Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, and Indonesian food, just to name a few.
I wanted to start out with something simple and delicious, seemingly healthy but not, and filling. So I turned to the recipe for Minced Chicken in Lettuce Cups. I’ll give the list of ingredients they asked for, but I’m also including small changes or additions I made by noting them with an asterisk (*).
1 head Iceberg
6 dried Chinese black mushrooms (I used 8-10 because I like them*)
2 Tbs Oyster Sauce
1 Tbs dark and light Soy Sauce
1 Tsp sesame oil
1/2 Tsp sugar (2 Tsp honey*)
1/2 Tsp cornstarch
1/8 Tsp ground white pepper
1 Lg Egg, beaten
2 Tbs Canola oil
1 Tbs ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lb chicken, minced
1/4 lb pork, minced
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, minced
6 water chestnuts, minced
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
3 green onions (1 leek*)
2 Tbs pine nuts
1 Serrano chile, seeded and minced*
1/2 lemon, juiced*
I know it seems like a lot of ingredients, but they’re all small, and once purchased- you have plenty left over to cook with later. Think about it like you’re buying an Asian spice rack. It seems a little expensive at first, but this is how they flavor their food.
I went ahead and made the sauce first, since the grocery store was out of green onions, I bought a leek instead. Leeks are basically really big, layered green onions. If you’ve never cooked with leeks before, make sure you only you the part about 1/2 inch above the root, and an inch below where they start to petal out. It may seem like a lot of waste, but you have plenty to work with, I promise. Take your hoisin sauce and mix it with 2-3 tablespoons* of warm water. The recipe calls for 1 Tbs, but I thought the sauce was still to thick. Since I didn’t have green onions, I cut the leek in half and thinly sliced it and added them to the hoisin. Hoisin has a certain ting to it, it’s almost sharp, so I cut it down by adding juice from half of a lemon. The acidity in the lemon juice helped soften the leeks and balance out the flavor. Put the sauce in the fridge until it’s time to eat!
Put on a small pot of water, and go ahead and turn the heat on high so it’s boiling by the end of the next step. Cut out the core of the head of iceberg, using a spoon is easiest, going in a circle around and popping it out. Separate about 20 leaves and soak them in ice water in the fridge for about 30 minutes. They should be ready by the time you’re finished cooking.
Take your dried mushrooms, and throw them in the now boiling pot of water. Cut the heat down to low so it’s still simmering and cover with a lid, letting the mushrooms rehydrate for about 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, mix oyster sauce, dark and light soy, sesame oil, honey*, cornstarch, white pepper, and egg until well mixed and set aside.
In a wok, or if you don’t have one a sauté pan will do, but Wok’s are awesome to cook with, heat the canola oil. Add the ginger and garlic and let it stir-fry for 15-20. Don’t let the garlic burn! You can’t reverse the flavor of burnt garlic! Next, add the minced chicken and pork and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Make sure any pink is gone and discard any juice that may have cooked out. You don’t want to over cook the meat because it will become chewy, so if it’s a little under – the rest of the cooking process will finish cooking your meat to stay moist. While the meat is cooking, trim the stems and mince the Chinese mushrooms.
After discarding any excess liquid, return the pan to heat and add the bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, Serrano, and mushrooms until the water from them is evaporated and they’ve softened up, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the oyster sauce mixture and stir fry until the sauce thickens (the egg doesn’t cook sepearelty, it acts as a catalyst for the thickening process), about 5 more minutes.
When you’re finished thickening the sauce, pull out your lettuce! If the process takes you longer than 30 minutes, drain the ice water off and leave them in the fridge to keep them crisp until you’re ready for them. Spoon a heaping amount of your chicken/pork mixture on the lettuce and drizzle the top with your hoisin sauce, and enjoy.
These are how mine turned out!
Feed you soon,