Many dishes that I make end up being out of necessity. Necessity as in I need to clear out the fridge/freezer of xyz asap, what can I do with it? This is one of them...
Oh Costco, how I love and loathe thee at the same time. They've got such great stuff, and SO MUCH of it too! Even though you don't need a million rolls of toilet paper, it's such a good deal and so convenient that you really just can't resist. Besides, you wouldn't want to get caught pissed off at your neighbor with no toilet paper in the house to "decorate" with, right? (Yes, I know there are worse scenarios to be caught in without toilet paper, but this is a food blog after all and I don't want to ruin your appetite). And lastly, it's not like toilet paper goes bad or anything. Hearts of romaine lettuce on the other hand - do.
Getting tired of sandwiches and salads, I started racking my brain for other ways to use up the lettuce. Hmm...rack, rack, rack...lettuce wraps! Yes, they're usually made with regular lettuce or butter lettuce, but I have romaine to get rid of, so romaine it is. Besides, for the life of me, I can't figure out how to peel off a leaf of regular lettuce without mangling it like a Edward Scissorhands. So really, even if I did have regular lettuce on hand, I'd probably go with the romaine anyway.
*Oh, and a note on the ingredients. My hubby and I both detest water chestnuts. It's something about the texture that I just can't stand. I don't mind it in this dish however, where it's chopped up into tiny pieces and adds a great crunch, but the hubz vetoed it as he hates it even in this dish. So to try to make up for the lack of crunch, I added wood ear. It helped a bit, but still wasn't the same, so I definitely suggest ignoring the hubz and using the water chestnut anyway!
These are rehydrated wood ears that have been soaked in warm water for just a few minutes (submerged in cold water, put in the microwave for 1 minute and let to sit for a minute or two).
Another possible addition that I left out is deep fried rice vermicelli (mi fen). These little noodles puff up immediately when they hit hot oil and are great mixed into the filling and also make great garnishes. Fry up a little pillow of rice noodles and lay your lettuce wraps on top for a beautiful presentation. Just make sure you put them into the oil in the general shape want it in because once they've puffed up, they become stiff and will break if you try to rearrange them.
Now for the recipe, enjoy!
*Measurements are estimations as usual. Do yours to taste/personal preference
- 2-3 carrots diced finely
- 1 tbs ginger minced
- 2-3 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 green onion chopped
- 5-6 wood ear diced finely (optional)
- water chestnuts diced finely (I omitted this, see note above)
- handful of pine nuts (optional)
- deep fried rice noodles (optional)
- 1 tbs Oyster sauce
- 3 dashes of white pepper (optional)
- Lettuce leaves
- Hoisin sauce
Mix the oyster sauce into the ground meat and set aside. It's better to use too little than too much as you can always add more later but it's hard to take it out.
Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan and set aside.
Heat up some oil in a wok/pan. Toss in the carrots and stir fry until mostly cooked through.
Then add the ginger, garlic, green onion, wood ear, and water chestnuts and white pepper and toss around for about 30 seconds.
Then add the ground meat and toss everything together until fully cooked. Taste it. If it needs more seasoning, add a bit of soy or more oyster sauce or salt. Keep in mind that you'll be adding hoisin sauce as well, so don't make it too salty at this point.
Add in the pine nuts and rice noodles at the very end and mix it in.
Take a piece of clean and dried lettuce, smear some hoisin sauce on the bottom, fill it with the meat mixture, wrap it up, and shove it in your mouth! (you might want to chew and swallow too)