I remember like it was yesterday. Bowing back to the smiling girl at the register, pointing to the items on the takeout menu, repeating “HAI” to confirm my order and quickly mumbling “DOMO ARIGATO.” That was pretty much how I communicated to most restaurant servers and store clerks in Okinawa.
Sound pathetic? Well yes, my biggest regret while living overseas was not learning the language. Although, locals were very accomodating in that most restaurants have “English” menus with a picture of each meal listed and not to mention the mouth watering plastic food displayed in windows.
My husband and I were addicted to many of the different restaurants in our town of Chatan. One of our favs was a Chinese restaurant cleverly named Chinese Restaurant. The gyoza’s were wicked good. Imagine the freshest of ground meat and veggies stuffed perfectly in a thin dough, steaming hot with a variety of dipping sauces to drench your dumpling in. Enough said. I was always embarrased to order there because we requested double portions and the girl at the register would stuff our takeout bag with a million wooden chopsticks thinking we were feeding an army!
I kept the chopsticks as a souvenir. It’s been a year since since I’ve been back at the Chinese Restaurant or even really eaten damn good Asian food. So based on my mouth watering memory of truly good Asian food, here is my take on chicken lettuce wraps.
Chicken Lettuce Wraps
- • 1 head lettuce
- • 1 pound diced skinless boneless chicken breasts
- • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms
- • 3 green onions
- • 5 cloves of garlic minced
- • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger minced
- • 3 tablespoons tamari sauce
- • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- • 1 tablespoon sriracha (or any hot sauce will do)
- • 1 tablespoon raw honey
- • Pinch of salt
- • Small can drained water chestnuts
- • 1/2 cup cashews
- • Rice sticks and peanut oil to cook them in (vegetable oil or canola oil will do too)
- In large skillet, heat sesame oil on medium heat. Add diced chicken. Stirring occasionally. While chicken is cooking, dice mushrooms, green onions, water chestnuts and cashews.
- Add mushrooms, green onions, ginger and tamari sauce to skillet with cooked chicken. Cook until mushrooms and green onions are limp. Stir in water chestnuts, garlic, cashews, white wine vinegar, mustard, sriracha, honey and salt. Stir over medium heat until heated through.
- For the rice sticks, pour two inches of peanut oil in a small sauce pot. Heat over medium to high heat for several minutes. Break off a handful of rice sticks and separate into pieces. Test drop a single rice stick into pot. If rice stick puff's up VOILA! Immediately removing to a paper towel lined plate. Now drop in the pot a handful of rice sticks!
- Serve chicken mixture with lettuce cups, topped with crunchy rice sticks. Eat like a taco.