Thursday, June 06, 2013

Pan-Asian Persuasion

Tonight's dinner was the result of my asking myself, "Why can't I combine that Lap Gai (spicy chicken) salad that I love so much at the local Thai restaurant with the lettuce wraps that I adore from P.F. Chang's?" The result: LAP GAI WRAPS! Yum and yum, and healthy to boot!

*Please note that there is MUCH confusion about the Thai-to-English translation and spelling of this dish. The most linguistically correct is probably lap, but I do recognize that "lap gai" sounds like a bachlorette party at Chippendale's, and tends to make one inclined to giggle when ordering at a restaurant in public. So choose whichever pleases you aesthetically and aurally (again with the giggling?): Lap, Laap, Laab, Lahb, Lahp, Larb, or Larp. You won't hurt my feelings.

Lap Gai Lettuce Wraps

1/2 head iceberg lettuce

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 lb. ground chicken
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups shredded Napa cabbage
1 red chili pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
juice of a lime
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 package vermicelli rice noodles/sticks

Cut a head of iceberg lettuce in half, remove the core, and soak in cold water for a few minutes. Separate the leaves, shake of excess water, and place on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels, then stash in the fridge to chill.

In a skillet, on medium, heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil, then brown a pound of ground chicken. Remove from the heat, then douse the meat with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, Thai fish sauce, and sugar. Set aside.

In a large bowl, gently mix together the cabbage, chili pepper, carrot, cilantro, basil, mint, onions, ginger, garlic, lime juice and black pepper. Once the meat mixture has cooled down a bit, combine with the rest of the salad ingredients.

To prepare the rice noodles, bring a saucepan of water just to the boil, turn off the heat, and add the noodles to the hot water. Let soak for five minutes, then drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Let them drain in a finely-meshed sieve, and use kitchen shears to cut them into shorter, more manageable lengths.

To assemble, place some of the cooled, drained noodles in a chilled lettuce cup, add a generous scoop of the larb gai salad, and top with a little more soy sauce and a squirt of sriracha, if desired. 

Makes about twelve lettuce wraps.

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