Lettuce wrap (生菜包) is one of the most popular dishes in Southeast Asia, a dish consists of variation of minced meat, seafood or vegetables, often in different kind of seasoning, spicy or savory which varies from country to country, served wrapped in lettuce leaves (most commonly with iceberg) along with some types of (dipping) sauce (in most cases, sweet hoi-sin sauce). As far as my memory goes, lettuce wraps were something special when I was little, as I would have them only in some monthly banquets which my mother (with me and one or two of my sisters) used to attend, in one of the restaurants along the old piers on the west side of Macau city. It was fun for a little girl to eat with her tiny hands, holding the lettuce cup filled with tasty fillings. I still enjoy it, even more so because it will be me who cooks and fills up that little cup with delicious treasure and eat it with complete joy. I love the coolness and the crunchiness of the lettuce work gloriously with the steamy hot fillings, full of flavour and texture, a total delight for the mouth!
I have made many different types of lettuce wrap, diced mixed vegetables and tofu in sweet soy sauce, topped with toasted cashew nuts; or Thai style spicy minced pork with basil, mint, coriander and chili, topped with roasted, crushed peanuts; or minced prawn and water chestnuts in oyster sauce, topped with crispy vermicelli etc. These are the ones that my family adores but the combination for the fillings is endless and worth to further explore.
This recipe at first was a bit of an experiment (well as all new recipe is!), but it turned out pretty delicious. It is between a traditional Cantonese poached chicken dish and a lettuce wrap dish, big on both flavour and texture. I am very happy with the result and can’t wait to share it with you!
Note: The chicken breast I used here were trimmed out from a whole chicken, hence the wings. I usually buy a whole chicken and divide it into parts and use the carcass to make stock. No part of the chicken is wasted. Since I buy only free-range or organic, they are a bit more expensive so the way I do is more economical. But do what it suits you most.
The ginger and spring onion sauce tastes heavenly, so DO NOT skip that, it provides an amazing flavour to the whole dish! I also served some steamy basmati rice on the side, but it is entirely optional.
Grilled Lemongrass Chicken Lettuce Wraps
- 2 Chicken breasts with skin on (or boneless chicken thigh with skin on) approx. 500g
- 1 head of little gem lettuce (or other type of lettuce), washed and dried with a tea towel
For the marinade:
- 1 bunch of coriander, leaves picked (for the wraps), stems chopped
- 1 stick lemongrass, finely chopped
- 1 tsp. white peppercorn, ground
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 2 tbsp. tamari (or regular soy sauce)
- 2 tbsp. ShaoXing rice wine
For the ginger onion sauce:
- 1 piece of ginger, approx. 4 cm, peeled and finely chopped
- 3 sticks of spring onion, finely chopped
- scant 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- small pinch of salt
Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl, add chicken pieces and gently massage the marinade on the chicken. Keep it in the fridge for at least 3 hours, best overnight.
Preheat the top grill in the oven on medium low. Remove most of the herbs/marinade from the chicken, then place the chicken on a baking tray or cast iron pan, place it under the grill for about 30-40 minutes depends on the grill. In the last 5 minutes, turn the grill on medium high so that the skin will take on a nice golden brown colour (but keep an eye on it).
While the chicken is grilling, make the ginger onion sauce: heat the oil in a small non-stick frying pan until quite hot. Then remove the oil from the heat and immediately add the ginger, spring onion into the oil. The vegetables will sizzle a bit. Transfer the mixture in a small bowl and add the salt, mix well and set the sauce aside.
Once the chicken is cooked, remove the tray or pan from the oven then let the meat rest, covered with foil, for a couple of minutes.
Get your table ready by laying out the prepared lettuce leaves, coriander leaves, ginger and spring onion sauce.
Slice the chicken and arrange a few pieces on a lettuce leave, spoon over some of the delicious ginger and spring onion sauce, scatter a few coriander leaves and serve.