After bumbling through the fridge for a few seconds, I laid eyes on a half-chicken and some Boston lettuce. Though the inspiration was quick, locating a recipe for "chicken lettuce cups" wasn't so easy. Suffice to say, when searching for the recipe the first 50 or so links mention P.F. Chang's within a sentence or two. No big surprises. That's where I, and probably a few million other people, had their first experience with this combo.
Unfortunately, the recipes I found looked suspicious. Most of them used ground chicken, which immediately turned me off. Eventually I wanted to know if this was an actual recipe or just something the chain created to deal with the Atkins diet craze a few years back.
I found my first clue in this Saveur article, which had a "minced chicken in lettuce cups" recipe adapted from a "famous Cantonese recipe for squab." And sure enough, after modifying my search to "quail lettuce cups" I ran across this recipe from Ming Tsai. Combining the two and utilizing the leftovers in my fridge, I created my own version. I'm sure the authentic choice of squab is best, but this chicken version was still delicious.
- 2 pounds chicken, skin removed and bones removed
- 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1/2 cup water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
- 2 scallions, white part diced and green part chopped
- 1 cup cremini mushroom, chopped
- 8 leaves Boston, bibb, or iceberg lettuce
- Salt and pepper
Finely dice the chicken. I found a meat cleaver to work best, though a chefs knife will work, too.
Pour the oil into a work or large iron skillet set over high heat. Add the ginger and scallion whites and stir-fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Dump in the chicken and mushrooms. Continue stirring, breaking up the chicken pieces, and cook for about a minute, or until the chicken is white and no longer raw. Pour in the oyster sauce and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently.
Remove from the heat and add the scallion greens and chopped water chestnuts. Stir until everything is combined. Season with salt if necessary. Fill each lettuce cup with a little bit of the mixture and serve.