Minced Chicken in Lettuce Cups ►
Pretty cups of hand-trimmed lettuce hold a mixture of chicken, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots, topped with a savory rice wine sauce and peanuts. This refreshing appetizer also makes a good party dish: Cut the lettuce cups smaller, top with 1 tablespoon of the chicken, garnish with rice sticks and peanuts, and serve as an hors d’oeuvre.
- Black Mushrooms (Shiitakes) - 4 or 5, dried
- Chicken Breasts - 1 whole, halved, boned, and skinned
- Iceberg Lettuce - 1 head
- Vegetable Oil - 2 cups, for deep-frying
- Rice Stick Noodles - 1 ounce, broken into 2-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
- Green Onion - 1, minced, including tender greens
- Bamboo Shoots - 1/2 cup, coarsely chopped
- Chinese Rice Wine - 1 tablespoon (alt. dry sherry)
- Oyster Sauce - 1 tablespoon
- Hoisin Sauce - 3 tablespoons
- Salt - 1/2 teaspoon
- White Pepper - Pinch of freshly ground
- Sesame Oil - 2 teaspoons, toasted
- Roasted Peanuts - 2 tablespoons, roughly crushed, for garnish
To prepare the mushrooms: In a small bowl, soak the mushrooms in warm water to cover for 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms, pat them dry with paper towels, and coarsely chop them.
To prepare the chicken: Mince or dice the chicken into 1/2-inch pieces
To prepare the lettuce cups: Cut about 1 inch off the stem end of the lettuce and peel off six to eight of the largest leaves. Using scissors — pinking scissors add an extra touch — trim the leaves into neat cups, 4 to 5 inches in diameter. Set aside.
To prepare the rice sticks: In a wok or deep-fryer, heat the oil to 360 F, or until a noodle dropped into the oil puffs and comes to the surface almost immediately. Add the rice sticks to the oil in small batches and fry until completely puffed, about 15 seconds. Remove the noodles with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Remove all but 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil from the wok. Reheat the wok over high heat and add the chicken, stirring quickly to separate the pieces. Stir-fry until the chicken turns opaque, then add, one at a time, the mushrooms, green onions, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts. Continue to stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the sauce ingredients one at a time in this order: rice wine or sherry, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, salt, pepper, and sesame oil. Toss lightly for 5 seconds.
To serve: Arrange the lettuce cups around the edges of a large serving platter. Mound the chicken mixture in the center of the platter and sprinkle with peanuts and rice sticks. Diners each spoon some of the chicken mixture into a lettuce cup, add a few peanuts and rice noodles, and eat the lettuce cups out of hand. The lettuce may also be placed in individual serving cups or small bowls, filled with the chicken mixture, and garnished with peanuts and rice noodles. Diners would still lift the cups and eat them out of hand.