Hoisin Turkey in Lettuce Cups

Sometimes things are too good to wait for. I was craving something specific, and I had to have it NOW. Normally when Kyle is out of town I don’t try too many new recipes (unless it’s something that I’m 95% positive he wouldn’t be in to). Part of the joy of cooking for me is eating the food, but I also cook to share with others; and when Kyle’s not around to taste and test my food, dinner doesn’t seem as fun or tasty. Quite frankly it seems downright lonely when I’m asking myself with each bite “Could this use more seasoning?” “Do you think the meat is tender?” “Were the veggies overcooked?” Plus I think the neighbours start to wonder…

Kyle has only been away for two days (ONE night) and I couldn’t resist making this dish. I was digging into my recent issue of Bon Appetit and inside there was a recipe for Lettuce Cups with Stir-Fried Chicken. They looked good. I wanted them. Right now. But then I read the recipe. It looked decent enough, but I could tell they were going to lack the flavour profile I was starting to crave upon first glance at the photo in the magazine. I do not enjoy Asian Sweet Chili Sauce – it’s goopy, sticky, lacks heat and I can make something better with sambal oelek and honey. Plus what I really wanted was some Hoisin Sauce.

Last September I went to a restaurant in Edmonton with a couple that I love! They are two fantastic friends and wonderful people … plus they are also crazy about eating good food. We ordered kung pao chicken lettuce wraps. They were tasty and served with a big ‘ol bowl of hoisin sauce. This is what I wanted. I went to the store, picked up ground turkey, bibb (butterhead? Boston?) lettuce, carrots, water chestnuts, and hoped I was right about having the rest of what I needed at home. Five ‘O Clock could not come fast enough today. I wanted to get home as quickly as possible and start preparing these for myself … and you of course, because now you must go out and try this one. Normally I’d test a recipe a few times before sharing it with people – but I dare say that this one was exactly as perfect as I needed it to be today.

Hoisin Turkey in Lettuce Cups

Inspired by Lazia Restaurant

1 head bibb lettuce
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1-2 tsp Sriracha hot sauce (depending on how hot you want this)
1 tsp Chinese black vinegar (or unseasoned rice vinegar)
1 Tbsp canola oil
2 tsp ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup green onions, chopped (divided)
1/8 tsp salt
1 lb ground turkey
1-2 carrots, julienned/matchstick cut (about 1/3 cup)
1/4 cup water chestnuts, sliced
1 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 tsp Maggi sauce or Worchestershire sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 cup roasted cashews, chopped
2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped

* It is very important to have all your ingredients chopped, minced, and ready before starting any cooking. It makes stir-frying the turkey mixture quicker and you’re less likely to overcook/burn anything.

Lightly tear off the individual lettuce leaves and rinse them. Dry the leaves and lay the larger ones out on a platter. Save the smaller leaves for a salad.

Whisk together the 1/4 cup of the hoisin sauce, the Sriracha, and black vinegar. Set aside.

Preheat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, and 2 Tbsp of the green onions. Stir-fry until fragrant and slightly tender, approximately 1 minute. Add the turkey to the pan and stir-fry until almost cooked through 5 – 6 minutes. Add the carrots, water chestnuts, the remaining 2 Tbsp of hoisin sauce, soy sauce, Maggi sauce, and sesame oil. Stir-Fry for another 2 – 3 minutes until the sauce has heated through and the carrots are slightly tender. Transfer the turkey mixture to a serving bowl.

At this point you can gently heat the hoisin dipping sauce in the microwave for 10 seconds to take off the chill (if your hoisin and Sriracha were in the fridge). Place the remaining 2 Tbsp green onions, cashews and cilantro on a small platter. Serve the dish by spooning some of the turkey mixture in a lettuce leaf, top with hoisin sauce and any of the other toppings you would like – spoon on more hoisin sauce for added enjoyment.

Serves 4 as a meal with rice or 4-8 as an appetizer.

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