Go Ahead, Bring Out Your Inner Child

Who says you shouldn’t play with your food? Delicious and bursting with flavor, these Asian Lettuce Wraps are our rendition of a food fad currently offered in Asian and other ethnic restaurants. You can mix and match any variety of vegetables and protein that suit your fancy. So go ahead and get creative!


We used spicy pork bought at a local Asian market. But if you don’t eat pork, you can always use any number of other options (see below) and rice noodles or bean threads to fill these imaginative lettuce wraps for a weeknight meal with little cooking involved. For a vegetarian repast, use tofu.

Below are two different sauce recipes, or go ahead and create your own. Just be sure to have plates and napkins available since the mixture can sometimes drip a little—or a lot…


I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our two new kitchen toys. Author-chef Grace Young highlighted these Asian cutting utensils, the Kinpari Peeler and the Negi Cutter (shown above) in her most recent stir-fry cookbook. Receiving them within days of our online order, we made quick use of their potential when making matchstick carrots and scallions for a variety of dishes. Brilliant!

Using the Kinpari Peeler to julienne carrot matchsticks.
A close-up of the carrot matchsticks.


  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 4 teaspoons hoisin sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
To prepare sauce, heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallot, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add 1/3 cup water and next 3 ingredients (through red pepper), and stir with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in lime juice.
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons minced pickled ginger
  • 1 dash Asian chile pepper sauce, or to taste (optional)
Cook and stir 1 large chopped onion in a skillet for 10 minutes. Stir hoisin sauce, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, and chile pepper sauce into onions. Spread on lettuce leaves and add other ingredients as desired.
We used pork slices marinated in a Korean sweet and spicy sauce.

Arrange all ingredients on a large platter so that everyone can access all of the fixin’s.

  1. 1 lb. cooked pork or chicken; or (14-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, drained and crumbled
  2. 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  3. 6 thinly sliced green onions (about 2/3 cup), divided; greens sliced in thin diagonals
  4. 1 cup matchstick-cut carrots
  5. 2 cups cooked bean thread noodles
  6. 8 or more Bibb lettuce leaves
Additional fillers: Vegetables: water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, cucumber matchsticks, bean sprouts. Protein: Ground pork, beef, chicken or turkey.

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