Friday, April 10, 2015

Korean Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Last Year's Post: Mixed Berry Jalousie
Two Years Ago:  Joanne Chang's Lemon Bars

At one point in my career I reported to a manager who liked to take job applicants to a restaurant for their interview.  Any restaurant would do as long as the food was particularly awkward or messy to eat - spaghetti or tacos, for example.  He claimed he liked to see how the applicants handled a stressful situation and whether they could maintain poise.  I think he just enjoyed watching those fresh young hopefuls struggle not to get spaghetti sauce all over their brand new suits.

Lettuce wraps would have qualified for his list.  They're right up there with tacos in terms of potential for messiness, but they're just as fun as tacos and a whole lot more healthy.  I've been on a major Korean food jag lately so I already had Gochujang paste sitting in my refrigerator for these Korean chicken wraps, but if you aren't familiar with it, you can find it in Asian markets and it looks like this.

It's one of those Korean food staples so if you like Korean food you'll find plenty of uses for it,  like these Korean sliders.  If you really don't want to buy it, you could substitute some other type of hot sauce to approximate the taste.  The overall flavor profile of the marinade should be slightly sweet, moderately spicy, somewhat salty from the soy sauce, and garlicky - classic bold Korean flavors.  The marinade will taste strong on its own but will be diluted somewhat when it's cooked on the chicken and then again when the other ingredients are added to the wraps.

Other than the marinated and cooked chicken, the wraps contain high-fiber brown rice and veggies so they're really good for you.  If you marinate the chicken and cook the rice in advance, they'll take all of ten minutes to make - just slice up the veggies while the chicken cooks.  They're equally good when the rice and chicken are hot, room temperature, or cold and make a great lunch for work the next day.  And they'll provide your co-workers with amusement at the lunch table as they watch you eat.

print recipe
Korean Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Serves 4

3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce plus more for thinning
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 ½ tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon Gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic (about 3 large cloves)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 pound skinless boneless chicken breast halves, thinly sliced
1 cup uncooked brown rice
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
12 Bibb lettuce leaves
24 English cucumber slices
4 radishes, sliced
4 green onions, diagonally sliced

Whisk the first six ingredients together in a bowl until well combined.  Reserve 3 tablespoons of the mixture in a small bowl; thin with a little additional soy sauce (if desired) and set aside.  Pour the remaining mixture into a large zip-top plastic bag and add the chicken slices; seal and toss around to coat.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Cook rice according to package directions.

Remove chicken from bag and discard marinade.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat; add oil to pan and swirl to coat.  Add chicken and coat approximately 2 minutes per side until golden and fully cooked. Sprinkle sesame seeds over chicken. 

To assemble, place 2-3 tablespoons of rice in each lettuce leaf; top with chicken, cucumber, radishes, and green onions.  Serve with reserved soy sauce mix on the side for drizzling.

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