The Week 25 theme of your first foods focused on early food memories. Maybe it was the first thing you learned to cook or the first thing you ate or one of the first food memories you had. I decided to choose lettuce wrap. I remember as a kid my dad used to bring home dinner from Chinatown sometimes, and I absolutely loved when that dinner was from Canton Restaurant. Whenever he ordered from Canton Restaurant, we almost always got lettuce wrap and it was one of my favorite things to eat, one of the first favorites I ever had. Then in junior high school, we had to do some sort of project (I think for Spanish class, but I don't remember the details, just doing it) and I did a video there about how to make it.
So much of what they made at Canton Restaurant was delicious, but they're no longer around, so I thought I would make this in honor of that early food memory. I wish I had been able to find the video of that recipe, because then I would have made it that way. Since I didn't have it, I just made lettuce wrap on my own from scratch with some input from A on the sauce ratios. We make this every so often at home, always a little bit different, but with the same general flavor profile. I'm not sure how close it came to that first one I had from Canton. Theirs was definitely better, but it's hard to identify the exact flavors when that memory is probably somewhere around 20 years old (or more).
For this lettuce wrap, I used:
- iceberg lettuce for the wrappers
- ground turkey, chopped onion, chopped garlic, rehydrated and chopped shiitake mushrooms, chopped water chestnuts, and chopped scallions for the filling
- a sauce made from 2 parts soy sauce, 2 parts oyster sauce, 1 part shaoxing wine, 1 part agave, and a bit of white pepper
- additional seasonings of salt, white pepper, and 5 spice
(It's been a while, so I don't remember exactly how much of each, but everything is pretty much to taste anyway when it comes to our lettuce wrap.)
Making the lettuce wrap is pretty straightforward as it's just a stir-fry. I cooked the turkey first, then added all the other ingredients, plus seasoning, and eventually the sauce. There was a lot of tasting as everything cooked and melded together, mostly because I wasn't fully happy with it. I know we've had lettuce wrap in the past years that tasted better and this one just wasn't living up to my expectations. I added the 5 spice (in copious amounts) and even more white pepper towards the end hoping that would fix it, and while it improved it, it didn't make it as good as some of the other ones we've had in the past.
Once the filling was done, we piled a little bit into each lettuce leaf and we were done. (A side note on the iceberg lettuce: I was glad I was making this while A was home so he could help me with the prep when it came to the lettuce. I started doing it but pretty quickly realized that on each leaf there was at least 1 (sometimes more) little green spider looking bug. I was getting completely grossed out and we probably wouldn't have eaten until midnight if I had to clean out all the bugs from the lettuce. Thankfully A did that task. Not buying that from TJ's again.) We ate them like lettuce tacos, and they were a bit messy with sauce dripping out, but they were good. We could have added some hoisin sauce, since they do usually give that to you at the restaurants with lettuce wrap, but either we forgot to or wanted to eat it this time without it (don't remember).
I love making lettuce wrap at home. It's a pretty healthy dinner choice and usually pretty tasty. Although this one wasn't as good as some of the ones we've made in the past (it just tasted like it was missing something, but still not sure what), it was still a good dinner. Now I'll just have to keep trying to find that video so I can try that version!