The boy’s place has spoiled me. It’s sky-high, with huge windows that show downtown in the distance, and we can watch the sunset right off his balcony…it’s just beautiful. While I do enjoy taking in these sights of the city when I’m over there, I also tend to focus on, well, a different sort of beauty: the P.F. Chang’s across the street. It’s just sitting there, looking at me, whispering, “What happened to us? Remember in college when you, me, and your friends would hang out and eat lettuce wraps? How can we ever get back to that place?”
It’s not that the boy and I never go out to eat, it’s just that P.F. Changs and I have grown apart. When we dine out, I gravitate towards local eateries, or new restaurants, or diamond-in-the-suburb spots. So, somehow, I ventured away from P.F. Chang’s, and you know what? When I look out that window and across the street to the welcoming, horse-guarded doors, it makes me sad.
We will inevitably venture across the street in the near future, but this week I decided to take dinner into my own hands, literally. I knew I couldn’t emulate the P.F. Chang’s lettuce wrap experience perfectly, because honestly I don’t even know what they put in there (I suspect crack), so I decided to do my own spin. Maybe it wouldn’t fix my P.F. Chang’s relationship, but I’d settle for rekindling my lettuce wrap flame.
Sweet n’ Spicy Lettuce Wraps
For the Sauté Sauce:
Adapted from “Spicy Bok Choy in Garlic Sauce” from AllRecipes.com.
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
For the Filling
- 1 cup millet
- 1 (14-ounce) container extra firm tofu
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 oz mushrooms
- 1 small-medium bok choy
- 1 bunch green onion
- 1 can sliced water chestnuts
- Romaine leaves to fill
For the Dipping Sauce
Adapted from this “Special Sauce” recipe.
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon honey mustard
- 2 teaspoons water
- 1 -2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1-2 teaspoons ground cayenne
Preheat oven to 350.
Cut the tofu block (yup, it’s a block. get over it) in half, and then cut those pieces in half. Put a few paper towels down, top with the tofu pieces, cover with more paper towels, and then something heavy. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sesame and peanut oil. In a separate bowl, whisk together the garlic, water, ginger, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes.
Cut your tofu into squares, and then dredge in the ginger-soy mixture. Put the tofu on a greased roasting pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, flipping every so often with a spatula to get the pieces evenly browned.
Sauté the dry millet in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat until lightly toasted. This will keep the texture firm and interesting instead of mushy and oatmeal-like…don’t get me wrong, I love oatmeal, but it needs to leave my lettuce wraps alone.
Once toasted, pour in 2-cups of water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down, cover the pot, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed.
While your millet and tofu prepare for their lettuce wrap debuts, get the veggies going. Cut the mushrooms into small chunks, slice the green onions (green and white parts), then take on the bok choy. Since bok choy was new to me, allow me to give you some pointers for bok choy chopping success:
- Break the outsides off. They’re basically a bunch of chunks, secured together at the base. Just pull it apart so you have one section at a time.
- Cut that section in half lengthwise, right through the leaf.
- Chop horizontally, parallel to the cut you just made, right on up through the leaf. This will leave you with good-sized chunks of stem and greenery, and yes, you want both.
Remember that peanut and sesame oil you set aside? Grab that and pour it into a large sauté pan. Add the green onions, mushrooms, and bok choy stems. Cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms have gotten juicy, and the stems have softened slightly. Add in the bok choy leaves along with the ginger-soy sauté sauce, and cook for another 3-minutes until the leaves are cooked down. Remove from the heat, and stir in the water chestnuts, cooked millet, and baked tofu.
In a small bowl, whisk together all the dipping sauce ingredients. Divide into even smaller bowls to encourage individual dipping.
Place three large romaine leaves on each plate, and top with a hefty spoonful of filling. Add the dipping sauce to the plate, and you’re ready for a fun and interactive dinner!
(note: that’s genuine excitement you’re reading, not sarcasm…I know it’s hard to tell sometimes.)
This recipe made a LOT, but that worked out just perfectly because the boy and I both ate…well, a LOT. Not only is it fun to scoop and wrap up your dinner, but the flavors and textures in these wraps make you want to keep eating. The hearty texture of the millet perfectly complements the crunchy water chestnuts and the firm bite of the bok choy stems, while its nutty flavor blends just right with the cooked mushrooms.
When you first dig in, you get the spicy garlic base and ginger kick from the sauté sauce and marinated tofu, and then when you dip or drizzle the sauce, you’re hit with a slight sweetness that brings these wraps to a whole new level of deliciousness.
As we dipped and crunched our way through dinner, I looked across the street and happily heard no whisperings what-so-ever. Of course, that could be because I couldn’t hear over the crunching and slurping, but whatever, I’ll take it.