Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Copycat P.F. Chang's chicken lettuce wraps

Think of the last time you dined out somewhere.  Now, please picture the menu at said restaurant.  Maybe I'm getting old... or just increasingly indecisive, but restaurants these days have giant menus.  Gi-nor-mous, people.

Prime example: The Cheesecake Factory's menu.  It's easily 20 pages long.  I'm initially overwhelmed by so many choices, then end up getting distracted by my company and the basket of brown bread.  Inevitably, I'm forced to tell the waiter (again) that yes, I do need more time to make my selection.  Sorry, buddy.

(Please say you're nodding, meaning I'm not the only person who tortures the staff like this.)

I fair much better at restaurants with smaller menus.  I come armed with a routine, narrowing my selection to three items and whittle until I've found the one.

So, you now know about my dining issues at restaurants with big and small menus.  But, there is a third category of restaurants for which I don't even need to see a menu.  Try and hand me one, dear waitress, and I'll swat it out of your hands.  "I already know what I want," I'll proudly proclaim. 

At Eat Unique?  I only have eyes for the garden chili.
If I'm at Fuel & Fuddle, you already know what I'll order: the smashed potato pizza.
And, at my favorite local ice cream shop, Dave & Andy's, birthday cake is my go-to flavor.

But, goodness, the worst (best?) example is P.F. Chang's.  If we get anywhere near that place, consider dinner a done deal.  It'll start when one of us mentions how long it's been since we've last dined there.  And then, like clockwork, it'll happen.

"What are you hungry for?"
"Lettuce wraps."
"Yeah, me too.  They're the best."
"I don't even want an entree.  Let's just get two orders."

And off we go.  Those messy-but-mind-blowing chicken lettuce wraps seem to steal everyone's heart... and maybe clog a few arteries leading to said heart, too.  So, you can imagine how excited I was to find a copycat recipe that's tastes exactly like the original but is way healthier. 

And pretty darn easy to throw together, too.

All of the usual characters: ground chicken, green onions, water chestnuts, and a boat load of seasonings.  If you think you don't want to invest in things like sesame oil and rice vinegar, trust me -- you do.

If only to make these again ASAP.

I only question why I haven't made something like this sooner.  Peanuts and peanut butter, too?  Puh-lease.  I'm smitten.

And happily stuffed.  There's nothing that makes me happier than indulging in a meal like this and knowing it's chock full of good stuff. 

Armed with this recipe, I now have no reason left to visit P.F. Chang's.  Like I said, it's a done deal.  Try it and you'll see. 

One year ago: Eggs in Purgatory (tomato sauce)

P.F. Chang's Lettuce Wraps
(adapted, slightly, from Iowa Girl Eats)
-serves 2-3

One quick note: To make these vegetarian, simply substitute crumbled tofu for the chicken.  You could also try ground pork or beef, I suppose, too.  If you do, let me know how that goes.

1lb ground chicken breast
1/2 medium onion
Ground black pepper
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 inch nob fresh ginger, peeled & minced
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
2 1/2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 Tablespoon water
1 Tablespoon peanut butter
1/2 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon rice vinegar (plain vinegar is fine, too)
3 green onions, chopped
1 8oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained & chopped
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
10-12 large outer lettuce leaves, rinsed and patted dry

Heat a large, non-stick skillet on high.  Add chicken, onion, and a dash each of salt and pepper, and cook until chicken is nearly done, stirring often to break up the meat. Add in minced garlic and ginger, and continue cooking until chicken is no longer pink.

Meanwhile, in a microwave safe bowl, combine sesame oil, soy sauce, water, peanut butter, honey, rice vinegar, and pepper. Microwave for 20 seconds, then stir until smooth.

Add into the skillet and stir to combine. Add green onion and water chestnuts into the skillet then cook for 1-2 minutes until the onions are soft and the water chestnuts are heated through.  Sprinkle with chopped peanuts, and serve with cold lettuce leaves.


  1. There is no chili garlic sauce listed in the ingredient list but in the directions it mentions it.....

    1. Thank you for your eagle eye! I actually omitted it from the original recipe, which is why I didn't list it. I'll update it to reflect the change.