Lettuce-Wrapped Chicken

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    4-6

Appears in

This is my version of a popular Hong Kong dish that uses squab or young pigeon, which is expensive and not always as easily available as chicken.

A simple, savoury dish that goes well with the refreshing crunch of the lettuce and the fried beanthread (transparent) noodles, it is a fun dish to eat and makes a wonderful starter for any meal. Each guest puts a helping of each ingredient into a hollow lettuce leaf (rather like stuffing a pancake) and eats the filled leaf with his or her fingers.

Ingredients

  • 450 g (1 lb) skinless, boneless chicken thighs, coarsely minced
  • 225 g (8 oz) red or green pepper (about 1 large or 2 small)
  • 15 g (½ oz) Chinese dried mushrooms
  • 175 g (6 oz) fresh or tinned (drained weight) water chestnuts
  • 225 g (8 oz) iceberg lettuce
  • 300 ml (10 fl oz) plus 1 tablespoon groundnut oil
  • 50 g (2 oz) beanthread (transparent) noodles
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions
  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Marinade

  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour

To Serve

  • 4 tablespoons hoisin sauce

Method

The chicken can be cut by hand or pulsed in a food processor. Put the minced chicken into a bowl with the Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry, soy sauce, sesame oil and cornflour, mix well and leave to marinate for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile cut the pepper into small dice. Soak the dried mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes, drain them and squeeze out any excess liquid. Trim off the stems and coarsely chop the caps. If you are using fresh water chestnuts, peel and coarsely chop them. If you are using tinned ones, rinse them in cold water and coarsely chop them. Separate and wash the lettuce leaves, wiping off any excess water, and set them aside.

In a large wok or deep-fat fryer, heat the 300 ml (10 fl oz) of oil until it is slightly smoking. Deep-fry the noodles until they are crisp and puffed up. Drain them on kitchen paper. (Drain off and reserve the oil, letting it cool; it can be saved for future use.)

Re-heat the wok until it is very hot, then add 1 tablespoon of the oil in which you fried the noodles. When the oil begins to smoke, add the chicken and stir-fry for about 5 minutes. Remove the chicken and drain.

Wipe the wok or pan clean. Re-heat the wok or pan over a high heat and, when it is hot, add the 1 tablespoon of fresh oil. When it is smoking slightly, add the garlic, shallots and spring onions and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Then add the peppers and stir-fry for another minute. Now add the mushrooms, water chestnuts, dark soy sauce, Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry, oyster sauce, salt and pepper.

Stir-fry the mixture for 3 minutes and then return the chicken to the mixture and continue to stir-fry for 1 minute, mixing well. Turn on to a warm platter. Arrange the lettuce and noodles on separate platters, put the hoisin sauce into a small bowl, and serve at once.

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