Last night, I made some unbelievable Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps:
You better believe that there is a story behind these, and obviously, I’m going to tell it. A few years ago, during my post-college “finding myself” phase, I spent several weeks in Thailand. I had been traveling in New Zealand and Australia for a couple of months when my friend Phoebe asked if I would be interested in meeting her in Thailand, where she was getting her yoga teaching certification. She was studying at a yoga retreat on the island of Koh Samui, and she wanted me to join her there for ten days and then travel for a bit. I happily accepted her invitation.
Phoebe didn’t tell me too many details about the retreat except that I would be spending four hours a day doing yoga and the food was vegan. Oh, and I was welcome to do a “cleanse” if I liked. That all sounded manageable. I mean, I did do yoga pretty regularly during my senior year of college. I wasn’t necessarily deeply devoted to my “practice,” but I enjoyed having an excuse to wear yoga pants in public, and I always felt so much more relaxed after class. Why wouldn't I want to do yoga on a beautiful Thai island? I was already looking forward to my tanned, yoga-toned beach body.
Upon arriving at the retreat, I enthusiastically signed up for a week-long cleanse, put on my spandex and got ready to get zen. From there, things didn’t exactly go as planned. It was clear when I walked into my first yoga “class” that I was in over my head. Everyone was doing something different, there was no teacher, and people were contorted into poses I had only ever witnessed in Cirque de Soleil. And Phoebe was one of them. What the shit was going on? This was not the glorified stretching followed by a brief nap that I was accustomed to. Apparently it was Mysore yoga, meaning “self-practice.” Luckily, some poor yogi took pity on me and gave me a diagram of the poses for the Ashatanga primary series, which I struggled through for a bit and then lay down in Shavasana (corpse pose). Things got easier on the yoga-front over the course of the week, but the cleanse was terrifying. I won’t go into any details because this is a food blog, and it would be bad for business if you were to lose your appetite. Let’s just say that it was ugly, and I was hungry.
However, out of darkness comes light, and I left Yoga Thailand feeling like a new woman. While most young people who visit Thailand tend to get a little crazy at the beach clubz, Phoebe and I traveled around the country for a month or so after the retreat in a very zen-like state. Yes, I was intrigued by the street vendors selling buckets containing ice, straws, booze, and mixers (talk about streamlining the on-the-go cocktail process), but we decided to forego partying in favor of briefly preserving the benefits of our cleanse. Instead, we walked a lot, drank coconut water straight from the coconuts, and Phoebe gave me private yoga lessons every morning. So wholesome and responsible! I couldn’t have been more proud of myself or my much-improved downward dog.
We also rode in many a tuk-tuk, visited several temples, and spent one very memorable day at an elephant retreat. Honestly, all I wanted to do in Thailand was ride an elephant. (Un)fortunately, we chose to visit a humane elephant sanctuary where they rehabilitate tortured elephants. I wasn’t allowed to ride one, but I did get to feed and bathe several. This was not exactly my idea of fun, but it was an experience to say the least.
|Animals love me.|
I have many fabulous memories of Thailand, but the most vivid are food-related. I love that Thai food is so delicious, fresh, and surprisingly light. The spices used in Thai dishes, especially Thai chili, are some of my favorites. So, when I happened to stumble across a photo album from my adventure in Thailand yesterday, I had two thoughts. First, I should probably get back into Yoga, and second, I should experiment more with Thai flavors. I decided to do both by brainstorming Thai recipes while lying in Shavasana. (I like to mutli-task.) I played around with the idea of Pad Thai for a bit, but I ultimately chose to skip the fried noodles and go with something a little healthier/more spandex-friendly. The result was the aforementioned Thai Chicken Lettuce wraps. I don’t want to gush over my creation, but these are amazing, and I am a culinary genius. (It’s not conceited if it’s true.) Light, spicy, and packed with nutrients, they are literally little lettuce-wrapped flavor bombs. And yes, they are Dude Diet approved.
These lettuce wraps would also be delicious with beef or pork, or with pan-seared tofu as an awesome vegetarian option. They are fancy enough to impress guests as an appetizer or main course at your next dinner party, yet simple enough for a weekday meal. The best part about these lettuce wraps is the convenience factor. They can be ready in twenty minutes, and you’ll only need one pan, so you won’t have to devote more than five minutes of your very important time to cleaning up. Please try this stress-free recipe immediately. You’ll love it. Namaste, bitches.
Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps: (Serves 4)
¾ pound thinly sliced chicken breasts, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 cup carrots
1 cup shitake mushrooms, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
½ red onion, finely diced
1 cup bean sprouts
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp Sriracha sauce
1 head butter lettuce, leaves removed
½ seedless cucumber, finely diced
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
4 scallions, thinly sliced
Preparing your lettuce wraps:
-Mince the chicken breasts with a sharp knife. Really get after it. If you have a meat grinder (I figure there is a .00001% chance of this), feel free to use it!
|I know how much you all love pictures of raw meat!|
-Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large pan or wok. When hot, add the minced garlic and ginger and sauté for about 1 minute.
-Add the minced chicken. Cook for about 3 minutes, breaking up the meat with a spatula, until the chicken is no longer pink.
-Add all of the vegetables except for the bean sprouts, soy sauce, vinegar, and Sriracha to the chicken. Cook for 3 more minutes until the vegetables are just tender.
-Add the bean sprouts. Cook for 1 more minute and remove from the heat.
-Spoon 2-3 tbsp of your Thai chicken mixture onto lettuce leaves. I like to layer 2 lettuce leaves to make sure that the “wrap” doesn’t fall apart while you’re eating. Top with cucumber, basil, and scallions to taste.
-Wrap up and get after it. You know you love it.