If you love Asian food and have ever ever been to PF Changs, you’ll have found that at the center of every table are their delectable, spicy, and oh-so flavorful lettuce wraps. Although these are usually prepared with chicken or roasted pork, a vegetarian tofu variety is also a great alternative. If you are leaning toward a vegetarian lifestyle, or simply want to try a healthier alternative to this Asian classic, this recipe is fabulous and would make the Hotei Buddha rub his own belly in delight.
This recipe serves about 4 (or 2 very hungry people), and comes together in about 35 minutes. Although you can use non-organic ingredients in this recipe, it’s best to use organic whenever possible, especially for the produce; red bell pepper, onion, lettuce, and the tofu (or at least use tofu that is non-GMO derived).
Here is what you will need:
1 block of extra-firm tofu, diced in ½ cubes. Extra-firm tofu will hold up better, but regular tofu can be used—just make sure all of the water is pressed out of it.
12 large whole iceberg lettuce leaves, rinsed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (8 oz) sliced water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
3 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
2 teaspoons soy sauce, or Braggs Liquid Aminos
1 teaspoon sesame oil
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 or 3 green onions, thinly sliced
Spray a heavy-bottomed nonstick pan with cooking spray; canola or other vegetable oil. Preheat, add the cubed tofu and cook for 10 minutes, flipping every once in a while so the tofu becomes browned on all sides. About halfway through cooking time, coat with the soy sauce.
In a separate skillet, add the sesame oil, garlic, red bell pepper, onion, water chestnuts, ginger, and red pepper flakes and saute 5 minutes over medium to high heat. Everything will be soft and starting to caramelize when done. Add the mirin, hoisin sauce and mustard, and cook for 3-5 more minutes. Last step is to add the tofu and fold gently into the sauce, coating evenly. Try to keep the tofu intact; it should not be scrambled.
On a large plate, arrange the lettuce leaves into cups and spoon the tofu mixture into each one (think taco). Sprinkle the green onions over each wrap. For added seasoning, have sauce cups of spicy mustard and soy on hand. If preparing these wraps for a main course, they go great with vegetarian wonton soup. Steamed rice or rice noodles are perfect sides.
These wraps are healthy with no saturated fat or cholesterol, are a good source of protein, and taste fantastic. They will fly off the plate, even for picky eaters and kids. They refrigerate well, and can be eaten hot or cold, although the warm spicy tofu served inside crisp chilled lettuce leaves gives the best taste and texture.