Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps – Not Exactly P.F. Chang’s, But Close Enough for the Internet

I don’t do a lot of copycat recipes; mostly because I don’t eat at the restaurants people are requesting the recipes from. I mean, unless they're going to throw in a couple bottles of wine, I’m not going to Olive Garden to figure out how they do their breadsticks. These chicken lettuce wraps however, are a delicious exception.

When I go back to visit my mom, we usually make it to P.F. Chang’s at least once, and always start the meal with their very popular chicken lettuce wraps. Off the record, they do a good job with most of the dishes I’ve had, but the wraps are clearly my favorite.

There’s an addictive quality to the contrasting combination of flavors and textures, and since this recipe has been requested many times, I decided I’d give it a go. Fair warning, I did almost no serious corporate espionage to find out what’s actually in these, but regardless, I loved how this came out, and it seems close enough.

One key here is to use a very large, non-stick pan, so the braising liquid/glaze sticks to the bits of food, rather than the bottom of the pan. Other than that, the technique is pretty simple, and not a lot can go wrong…unless you try to use chicken breast. Even if you think you don’t like them, use thighs, because in this you will. I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 8 large or 16 smaller lettuce wraps:
Chicken mixture:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped
1/2 cup yellow onion, minced
1/3 cup green onion
1 can (8-oz ) water chestnuts, drained, minced
1 cup diced shiitake mushrooms
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger

For the glaze:
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 tsp mustard powder
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp red chili flakes, or to taste
4 garlic cloves, minced
about 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, basil leaves, and green onions to finish

iceberg lettuce leaves as needed


Paola Camilo said...

This looks amazing and would love to give it a try! Can you recommend a substitute for the mushrooms? I can't eat them because I'm allergic. Thanks

Dave said...

Personally, I'll sometimes use tofu as a substitute for mushrooms, as my girlfriend can't stand them. It's more of a textural thing, though, as tofu obviously lacks the earthy flavour you get from mushrooms.

Cambinski said...

Chef John, you forgot to write the amount of ginger in the chicken mixture but I kind of guessed. It says here that the chili flakes are in the chicken mixture but in the video they are clearly in the glaze. But no bother, it all ends up in the same place.

Thanks for all your amazing recipes. You're the best.

Sandy said...

Chef John! I share your secret love for P.F. Chang's. I was recently on vacation in Vegas, and I stayed at Planet Hollywood, which has a P.F. Chang's on the premises. After a long day of losing money $0.01 at a time at the cheapo slots and wandering around the mall (I swear I'm actually a lot younger than 75), I ordered some room service of P.F. Chang's chicken lo mein. It was so good. I'll probably never go back to Vegas, but I see many more trips to P.F. Chang's, or more likely its cheaper cousin Pei Wei, in my future.

Chef John said...

thanks, but " secret love" is a little strong. :)

Justin said...

I made it for dinner last night and the recipe did not disappoint. I did however, use Sambal chili paste instead of chili flakes. It was muy delicioso.

Blue Arc said...

I can't eat them shiitake mushrooms either. I'm thinking baby portobello would work??

Sandra from Montreal said...

Made this tonight and the whole family *loved* it! Thanks again, Chef John! :)

Chef John said...

Yes, any mushroom!

Gary Higgins said...

Made it last night and it came out excellent! So very good, thanks for the recipe and video Chef! I think next time I am going to change the chili to something that pairs even better with the sweetness and use Romain "canoes" instead of Iceberg "rafts". So yummy!

Myra Eliza Calove said...

I literally just made this tonight and it was so flavorful.
My half chinese husband absolutely loves it. Thank you so much for this recipe!!!

Erin said...

I heard on NPR recently that ketchup is in fact Chinese in origin; it was a fish sauce that was brought back to Europe and then, you know, eventually perverted with a ton of sugar by Americans. But the tomato sauce base was there. So the use of ketchup, albeit for chicken over fish, may be more authentic than you'd think!

Ameena Noordheen said...

Made these tonight and it was amaazing! Even after I used chicken breast ;) Will kick up the heat next time though. Thank you for the recipe :)

Mark McGrail said...

Hi. I actually remember Todd Wilbur making these and saying that they also contained some sort of black mushroom sauce.

Elizabeth Droesch said...

Your recipe calls for chicken thighs. I'm curious to know if there is a specific reason the recipe calls for thighs, not breast. I only ask because for my family I buy chicken breast, and if I can use breast, it will cut down on my grocery bills.

Chef John said...

Usually thighs are cheaper than breast!

But it mostly b/c it much more flavorful and juicier.

James De La Cruz said...

Hi-- I made this the other night, and have to say it was delicious. The hardest part was chopping the chicken, on account of my dull knives. Anyway, I used cane vinegar instead of rice vinegar and it still turned out delicious. A little too spicy for my three year old, but he did like the lettuce. Thanks for your recipes! They never fail.

Mark M said...

John: you should use black mushroom sauce in this. I watched a show with Todd Wilbur. He had talked to the mother of the founder of PF Chang's. That's what she told him was a key ingredient.

James said...

Loved the recipe and have made it a few times (Using Boston Lettuce, as it folds better). My question is were did you get those divided bowls? They are simply astonishing and I need to get them!

James said...

Since I posted last, you kinda know I HAD to make this one more time! Today, I substituted Ground Pork for the Chicken and left out the cooking oil (you know that other guy who alway says 'Pork Fat Rules'), anyway, it pleased "She Who Must Be Obeyed"! Thank you once again for making me a better home cook!!

Nero Global Tracking said...

I followed this recipe to a T and for some reason it ended up having way too much moisture. I couldn't get the stickiness that Chef John said you needed the nonstick pan for. Mine was almost like a soup! Could be because I used previously frozen chicken?

Unknown said...

One recommendation for those who dislike the texture but still enjoy the taste of mushrooms: buy dried shiitake mushrooms, then grind them to a powder in your blender or nutribullet. I love using mushroom powder in SO many recipes! I just used fresh shiitakes myself since I love mushrooms. I also used Chinese mustard as Chef John recommends, and I pulsed partially frozen thighs in food processor to save time chopping (not sure if Chef John recommends, but I do.) This recipe was hundo-p bomb!

Unknown said...

In regard to the question by Nero Global Tracking: I also had too much moisture, and I also used partially thawed chicken, but I just kept cooking the moisture down until it started to caramelize, then added half the liquid, then let it continue caramelizing, then added the rest of the liquid and let it cook down to a perfect caramelized glaze. It took longer than 10-15 minutes; more like 25. I also didn't have a nonstick pan so I just used stainless steel pan and stainless steel spatula to scrape the brown bits, reincorporating them back into the dish for the caramelized flavor and color. The steps where you add the liquid help to pick up those brown sticky flavor creations in the pan and bring them back into the chicken mix. Then just scrape it all into the serving bowl with the stainless steel spatula (if you don't have a nonstick pan.)

Nunzio Lazzara said...

Are rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar the same thing? I used rice vinegar because it was what I had in the cupboard and, although the recipe still turned out pretty delicious, it came out a bit more on the sour side than I had hoped.