THAI LETTUCE WRAPS WITH CRISPY TOFU AND MUSHROOMS February 05 2018
Punchy, Thai-influenced flavours and the perfect balance of textures take these crispy tofu and mushroom lettuce wraps BEYOND the edge of deliciousness.
Whenever I see a recipe that claims to be the BEST, I wonder; "Really? Is it REALLY the best recipe ever?"
Boldness abounds on the world wide web with all sorts of such assertions and, at the risk of adding to the monomania, I feel like this recipe could indeed hold it's own if one were to investigate the claim.
Naturally, I would love you to be the judge of that.
The original recipe had been a winner of a week night meal in our household for years. It wasn't until this crispy, spicy crumbled tofu entered my life that I considered changing the recipe at all. Then, when I made Asha's crispy thai tofu tacos (which are truly scrumptious!), I knew a rework of our favourite lettuce wrap recipe was in short order.
Now, these wraps are obviously still insanely delicious made with ground chicken, turkey or even pork instead of the tofu if that suits you. I happen to be absolutely smitten with this method of cooking tofu mostly because it's eat-it-by-the-spoonful tasty, but also because it helps us to consume less meat as a family (#goals, right?).
Whatever protein you choose, here's where the magic lies:
Not one but two punchy sauces – a stir-fry sauce and a dressing – turn up the volume on flavour. Then layer upon layer of textures, starting with the slightly chewy tofu, tender-crisp vegetables, a surprising, light crunch from water chestnuts, the cool crispness of lettuce and refreshing herbs, then finally the salty bite of roasted peanuts.
See what mean? Total magic.
Before you give this one a go (and it would be my dream if you did), I can't send you off just yet without sharing a couple of tips to maximize your success.
1. Keep in mind the tofu will take a solid 15 minutes even to begin crisping up. If you're a deft multi-tasker with decent knife skills, mince and dice those veggies and prepare the sauces while the tofu cooks to make the most of your time. If the thought of simultaneously cooking and prepping sends you into a tizzy, take comfort in the fact that all the parts of this meal can be made/prepped in advance. Even better – enlist other members of the family to lend a hand. Kids can easily make the sauces, wash the lettuce, and so on.
2. Low sodium soy sauce is strongly recommended. There's a lot going on here with the whole salty-sweet-sour-umami flavour combination and too much salt will overpower the other flavours. If you only have regular soy sauce, you could use half the amount, then add low sodium soy sauce to your grocery list for next time.
3. Iceberg lettuce is really the only way to go for lettuce wraps. Yes, there are many recipes using butter/bib lettuce or even romaine, but I find the leaves just too delicate to hold the filling long enough to get it to my mouth without collapsing in a heap on the plate. Still delicious mind you, but absurdly messy.
4. Little ones enjoying this with you? Do yourself a favour and skip the wrap altogether. The first couple of years making this recipe, our kids just couldn't manage the mechanics of the wrap and ended up unnecessarily frustrated. Nobody wants that. Instead, chop or shred the lettuce (in which case feel free to use the previously mentioned less-sturdy lettuce), and turn this into bowl food. Everybody wants bowl food.
5. The crispy noodles are optional but recommended. Rather than buy a big bag of those already fried (but sorta stale) chow mein noodles which you won't use all of, then lose in the back of your pantry for the next six months, consider making fresh crispy noodles. Simply drop a thin layer of dried rice vermicelli noodles (I use brown rice ones) into about an inch of hot oil and watch it quickly puff up seconds. Promptly flip/toss the noodles to ensure they are entirely puffed, then transfer to a plate lined with paper towel. So simple and really just the perfect touch for these wraps.
There. I think that's it! Even though I had much to say, and at first glance, the ingredient list looks lengthy, I promise this is an easy, healthy, tasty, family-friendly meal that I have so much love for. If you do make it, please come back and leave a comment to let me know what you think. I'm all ears!
Thanks for reading and I hope you'll keep in touch on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest for frequent foodie fixes.
- 4 tbsp neutral oil (plus more if needed)
- 350g extra or super firm tofu
- ½ lb mushrooms, small dice
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- ½ cup white onion, small dice
- 2 tbsp ginger, peeled and minced (about 2" long piece)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup carrots, small dice
- ½ cup celery, small dice
- 1 x 227ml can water chestnuts, chopped
- ½ cup green onions, chopped
Stir Fry Sauce:
- 3 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tsp, or to taste chili paste (sambal oelek)
- 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1-½ tbsp low sodium sauce
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 head iceberg lettuce, washed and leaves carefully separated into cups
- dry roasted peanuts, chopped
- cilantro and/or basil
- chili paste (sambal oelek)
- jalapeño, sliced thin
- crispy noodles
Add the carrots, celery and water chestnuts to the pan and stir fry for another 2-3 minutes, leaving a bit of crunch to the veggies. Meanwhile, prepare the stir fry sauce and pour over the tofu mixture; stir to coat thoroughly. Toss with the green onions and keep warm until ready to serve. Stir together the ingredients for the dressing and set aside until ready to serve.Serve the tofu mixture with the lettuce cups, sauce for drizzling, and any or all of the toppings listed above.