This spicy Asian lettuce wrap offers a multi-sensory experience: Crunch from fresh and crisp lettuce leaf, a play on texture from veggie and tofu stir-fried mixture, and a burst of sweet and sour flavor from a very special homemade dipping sauce.
When I had my first Asian lettuce wrap at P. F. Chang's almost a decade ago, I knew it was going to be a regular on my summer menu. So I set out to experiment soon after I had the wrap at the restaurant. Let me alert you that if you are serving this to hungry kids, the serving size given in the recipe below is immaterial. My kids can eat these till the stir-fried mixture disappears. So I would recommend either make a double or triple batch or hide whatever you need for your guests or yourself. But the great news is that it makes a great snack for kids as this spicy Asian wrap is super healthy. It is also a great and quick appetizer for a party.
How to make Asian lettuce warp
You need lettuce to use as wraps. I usually go with iceberg or romaine for the lighter flavor profile as these varieities let other ingredient shine better. However, feel free to choose any other kind. Lettuce should offer a wrap-like leaf. Mushrooms, onion, and jicama form the base for the filling. The lettuce wraps I ate at the restaurant used water chestnuts. But I did not find any fresh. I avoid using canned vegetables; therefore, I use jicama, which is a tuber from the bean family but looks more like a brown potato. The neat thing about jicama is that it's texture and taste is very similar to that of water chestnut. Chop these vegetable finely to facilitate the melding of flavors.
Soy sauce and rice vinegar are almost indispensable in Asian cooking. I have recently started using coconut aminos instead of low-sodium soy sauce. Coconut aminos have slightly less sodium content than low-sodium soy sauce and are gluten free. For me lighter flavor profile of coconut aminos was the deal breaker. I use maple syrup as a sweetener, but if maple syrup is not in your pantry, honey makes a good replacement. Firm or extra-firm tofu works well. Cayenne pepper (or chili powder), lemon, ginger, and cilantro add the right amount of heat and fresh flavors, respectively. You can replace lemon with lime without changing much in the recipe.
Start by making the sweet and sour sauce (see the recipe below). While you cook the stir-fry mixture, the sauce can chill in the fridge where flavors can meld better. Also, wash the lettuce leaves and pat dry. Make the stir-fry sauce by mixing coconut aminos, maple syrup, white vinegar, and ginger. Drain water from tofu package and wrap it in a paper towel and gently squeeze it to get rid of the excess water. Cut the tofu in small cubes and in a bowl mix with half of stir-fry sauce and caynenne pepper. Stir fry tofu cubes in a skillet on medium heat. Tofu should become brown but still stay soft.
In another pan, add 1 tsp of oil and add chopped onion, cook until soft. Add minced garlic, mushroom and a pinch of salt. Cook until mushrooms are soft. Add finely diced jicama with the balance of the stir-fry sauce; cook until slightly soft. I am not a big fan of mushed jicama, but if you like it well-cooked, please go ahead. Don't let me influence you. Once jicama is cooked to your liking, add stir-fried tofu and top it with chopped cilantro. Mix it well and stir for about 2 minutes to mix flavors. Bring the stir-fried mixture to room temperature before serving in the lettuce wrap. Top each Asian lettuce wrap with 1-2 tsp of sweet and sour sauce. Enjoy.
Spicy Asian Lettuce Wrap with Sweet and Sour Sauce
Sweet and Sour Sauce
- 1 tbsp coconut aminos* (can sub with low-sodium soy sauce)
- 1 tbsp maple syrup (can sub with honey)
- 1 tbsp white rice vinegar**
- 1.5 tbsp lemon juice (cansub with lime juice)
- 1/4 tsp garlic, minced,
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (can sub with red chili powder, add more to taste)
- 6 leaves Iceberg lettuce (can sub with buttercup lettuce )
- 2 tbsp coconut aminos (can sub with low-sodium soy sauce)
- 1 tsp white rice vinegar (see recipe note for sub option)
- 1 tbsp maple syrup (can sub with honey)
- 7 ounce tofu, firm or extra-firm (about 2 cups or half a block of tofu, cubed)
- 1 cup onion (finely chopped)
- 2 cups crimini mushrooms (or any other type) (finely chopped)
- 1 cup jicama (can sub with water chestnuts, finely chopped)
- 1 tsp fresh ginger (minced)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 tsp sesame oil (or any other)
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (can sub with red chili powder, add more to taste
- 1 pinch salt
- 1/2 cup cilantro**** (roughly chopped)
Sweet and Sour Sauce***
- Combine all the ingredients together in a mixing cup and whisk till well mixed.
- This sauce can be stored in refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Wash lettuce leaves under cold water and dry with a paper towel. Alternatively, dry on a clean kitchen towel..
- To make the stir-fry sauce, mix coconut aminos (or low-sodium soy sauce), white rice vinegar, maple syrup, minced ginger and garlic in a bowl. Mix it with a whisk or fork till well-mixed.
- In another bowl, add tofu, half of cayenne pepper, and half of stir-fry sauce. Heat 1 tsp of oil in an iron skillet (or any other type) on medium heat. Add tofu and cook it until brown. It does not have to perfectly brown on all sides. Don't let it brown for too long otherwise it may become hard.
- While tofu is browning, add 1 tsp of oil in a separate pan on medium heat. A tapered Chinese stir-fry pan works great, but any other type is fine too.
- Add onion and cook for 2 minutes or until soft. Add garlic and ginger and cook for a minute. Add finely chopped mushrooms and add a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, till mushrooms are soft. Add finely chopped jicama (or water chestnuts). Cook for another 2 minutes. I like jicama to have a bite to it, but if you like it soft, you can cook longer.
- Add stir-fried tofu to this mixture and add remaining stir-fry sauce. Mix well for about a minute. Add cilantro and mix.
- Cool the mixture till it comes to room temperature. Once cooled, serve with lettuce wrap and sweet and sour sauce. Enjoy!
- Serve the wrap with 1 tsp of dipping sauce.
- Add 1 tbsp of water to 1 tbsp of coconut aminos (or low-sodium soy sauce) to make the stir-fry sauce.