Meatless Monday – Asian Tofu Lettuce Wraps with Spicy Peanut Sauce (v,gf)

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THIS IS SERIOUSLY GOOD! Low Carb + High Protein + Spicy Peanut Sauce = #NeedWeSayMore  It’s the perfect balance of hot and cold, savory and sweet, crisp and tender.  The tofu, mushroom and water chestnut combination is really flavorful, picking up the garlic and ginger flavors, with the soy adding a pleasant saltiness. The beauty of tofu is that it is so bland on it’s own that it absorbs flavors very easily.  Spoon the yummy filling into crisp lettuce cups and top with chopped peanuts, slivered scallions, chopped red pepper and a drizzle of spicy peanut sauce for a delicious and healthy meal.

IMG_20190918_195507I originally blogged this recipe in 2016 and decided to circle back and test my own recipe.  I was also craving lettuce wraps.  Well the wraps were just as good as I remembered but I made a few changes. (I rarely make the same exact thing twice) and I thought the blog post itself could use an update. So here goes…  I added chopped criminy mushrooms to the tofu mixture which increased the depth of flavors.  I also chopped toppings smaller and fairly uniform in size which made it easier to eat.  AND I simplified the spicy peanut sauce, no pans, just a bowl and a spoon.  Sometimes less is more.  I like it even better and it’s easier…

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I like setting all the toppings up as a ‘bar’ for serving so that people can design their own plate. The photo is obviously from the ‘old’ post but you get the idea.

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The tofu mixture is really flavorful.  I could eat it on it’s own or over rice with a fork or chopsticks (which makes a great lunch), but when wrapped in a fresh, crispy lettuce leaf and topped with veggies, jalapenos and peanut sauce – yum!

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So what’s the deal with water chestnuts?  They are a staple in many Chinese dishes, and I have always thought of them as filler or meat extender, but are they good for you? It turns out, yes.  Water Chestnuts have zero fat and cholesterol and, at 60 calories per cup, are low in calories and sodium but they provide a wealth of nutrients for such an unassuming vegetable. They contain essential vitamins like Vitamin B-6 which supports healthy brain and immune system function, and thiamin and riboflavin which help your body convert food into energy. They are also a good source of potassium, copper and manganese.  As a bonus, water chestnuts  are a nonstarchy vegetable that helps keep you feeling full longer.  So combining a protein, like tofu, with chopped water chestnuts goes way beyond increasing the quantity of food. It adds a pleasant texture, increases the nutritional value AND helps keep your belly full and happy.

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TIPS:  I love homemade dressings and sauces.  This is a good homemade peanut sauce which is also fairly easy to make, however, there are many good brands of peanut sauce available in stores if you are pressed for time or you just can’t be bothered to make your own.  Or use a hoisin or soy ginger sauce that you already have in your pantry.  Sriracha is another good topping for those that like extra spicy food.

 

Don’t skip the step of pressing the water out of the tofu.  If the tofu is wet, the garlic and ginger flavors won’t be absorbed. Drained tofu will soak in marinades like a sponge.  If you are in a rush, you can squeeze the tofu in several thicknesses of paper towels to get the excess water out.

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ASIAN TOFU LETTUCE WRAPS

1 block extra firm tofu
1 8 oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped
6-8oz mushrooms, (criminy, shiitake or white)
1-2 Tbsn sesame oil
3-4 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsn soy sauce (or gluten free liquid amino acids)
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced (or ginger paste)
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 head Bibb,butter,iceberg or red leaf lettuce
2 green onions/scallions (optional)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro (or parsley), (optional)
1 small cucumber (optional)
1 small red bell pepper or carrot(optional)
1 jalapeno pepper, diced (optional)

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  • Crumble tofu and spread it in a single layer on several layers of paper towels and cover with additional paper towels. Let stand 15 or 20 minutes, pressing down occasionally to squeeze out excess water. Change paper towels if they get too wet. (Do not skip this step – at least 5 minutes while you’re chopping veggies)img_20190918_185622-e1568929264747.jpg
  • Chop sliced water chestnuts and set aside.

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  • Wipe mushrooms with a damp paper towel and chop. Set aside.

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  • Separate whole lettuce leaves and rinse each leaf under cold water, pat with papertowels and let dry.

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  • Slice green onion into a thin julienne using a grater, mandolin or food processor (or with an old fashioned knife)

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  • Chop all vegetable toppings, red pepper, cucumber, jalapeno and place in small bowls for serving

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  • Roughly chop peanuts if you are using

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  • Heat a large skillet or pan over medium-high heat. Add sesame oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add tofu crumbles, water chestnuts, mushrooms and garlic; sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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  • Add soy sauce, ginger and red pepper flakes, if using. Sauté a few minutes. Taste and add more, if needed.  Turn off heat and set aside.

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  • To serve, fill a lettuce leaf with a scoop of tofu mixture and top with veggies, cilantro and green onions, as desired, and drizzle with spicy peanut sauce.

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SPICY PEANUT SAUCE

3 Tbsn creamy peanut butter
1+ tsp chili garlic or hoisin sauce
1 Tbsn brown sugar
1 Tbsn soy sauce or gluten free liquid aminos
1 Tbsn lime juice
1/4 cup warm water

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  • Combine all ingredients except for the water and stir with a whisk. Taste and add more chili garlic sauce, sugar or lime as desired.

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  • Add water one tablespoon at a time until the peanut sauce is just thin enough to drizzle.  If it gets too thin, stir in a little more peanut butter. Pour into a small serving bowl.  Makes about a half cup.

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Asian Tofu Lettuce Wraps with Spicy Peanut Sauce

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 block extra firm tofu
1 8 oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped
6-8oz mushrooms, (criminy, shiitake or white)
1-2 Tbsn sesame oil
3-4 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsn soy sauce (or gluten free liquid amino acids)
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced (or ginger paste)
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 head Bibb,butter,iceberg or red leaf lettuce
2 green onions/scallions (optional)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro (or parsley), (optional)
1 small cucumber (optional)
1 small red bell pepper or carrot(optional)
1 jalapeno pepper, diced (optional)

  • Crumble tofu and spread it in a single layer on several layers of paper towels and cover with additional paper towels. Let stand 20 minutes, pressing down occasionally.
  • Chop water chestnuts and set aside
  • Wipe mushrooms with a damp papertowel and chop, set aside
  • Separate whole lettuce leaves and rinse each leaf under cold water, pat with papertowels and let dry.
  • Chop veggies you are using for toppings (red pepper, cucumber etc) and put them in small serving bowls
  • Slice green onion into a thin julienne using a grater, mandolin or food processor (or with an old fashioned knife)
  • Roughly chop peanuts
  • Heat a large skillet or pan over medium-high heat. Add sesame oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add tofu crumbles, water chestnuts, mushrooms and garlic; sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add soy sauce, ginger and red pepper flakes, if using, and sauté a few minutes. Taste and add more if needed. Turn off heat and set aside.
  • To serve, fill a lettuce leaf with a scoop of tofu mixture and top with veggies, cilantro and green onions, as desired, and drizzle with spicy peanut sauce.

SPICY PEANUT SAUCEIMG_20190921_144950

3 Tbsn creamy peanut butter
1+ tsp chili garlic or hoisin sauce
1 Tbsn brown sugar
1 Tbsn soy sauce or gluten free liquid aminos
1 Tbsn lime juice
1/4 cup warm water

  • Combine all ingredients except for the water and stir with a whisk. Taste and add more chili garlic sauce, sugar or lime as desired.
  • Add water one tablespoon at a time until the peanut sauce is just thin enough to drizzle.  If it gets too thin, stir in a little more peanut butter.
  • Pour into a small serving bowl.  Makes about a half cup.

Asian Lettuce Cups with Hearts of Palm (Vegan)

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Lettuce wraps are fan favorites of those trying to eliminate carbs, gluten or calories.  I just love them because they’re delicious with their warm, savory filling wrapped in cool and crispy lettuce leaves, topped with shredded veggies, salted peanuts and chili peppers. The best part is that they are easy to make and ready in about 15 minutes.  My son, Jackson, loves the Chicken Lettuce Wraps at our local Japanese restaurant.  I wanted to make a similar version at home but without the chicken and I may have taken some liberties but the concept is the same.  I used hearts of palm in place of meat in my Barbecue Pulled “Pork” Sliders with great success and thought I would see how it does as a substitute for chicken.  Well, the results were a resounding “Yum!”.  Click on the link below for the Slider recipe:

https://goodmotherdiet.com/2015/09/21/meatless-monday-barbecue-pulled-pork-sliders-with-spicy-slaw-vegan/

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I had warned that hearts of palm would be showing up in more recipes, especially once I realized that they are such a good meat substitute, both in taste and texture but also from a nutritional standpoint.  Hearts of Palm is harvested from the inner, less fibrous, part of various palm trees, most commonly the cabbage palm. It is definitely not empty calories as I originally thought. Hearts of Palm is naturally low in calories, at only 41 calories per cup(146 grams). It is also very low in Cholesterol and a good source of Protein (four grams in one cup), Riboflavin and Potassium, and a very good source of Fiber, Vitamin C, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Zinc, Copper and Manganese. That is quite a list for the unassuming hearts of palm.

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TIPS: I love the crispy, juiciness of iceberg lettuce for wraps but butter lettuce, romaine or even kale or collard greens would work too if you like something a bit more substantial.  I recommend setting up a toppings bar and letting everyone decorate their own.  My favorites are roasted peanuts, scallions and red chili peppers but the sky is the limit.  Use your imagination. Sriracha is a good option too.

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ASIAN LETTUCE CUPS WITH HEARTS OF PALM

1 can hearts of palm
1 can sliced water chestnuts
1/2 large red onion (or yellow onion)
4 cloves garlic
1 zucchini (optional)
6 brown mushrooms (optional)
1/4 cup soy sauce (or gf liquid aminos)
1 Tbsn rice vinegar
1 Tbsn sesame oil
1 tsp honey
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

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TOPPINGS

8 lettuce leaves
1/3 cup roasted peanuts
2 scallions, sliced or julienned
2 red chili peppers, chopped or julienned
Sriracha or other hot sauce (optional)

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  • Drain hearts of palm and water chestnuts.  Roughly chop both and set aside

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  • Cut onion into small dice and chop garlic.  Prepare toppings, either slice, chop or julienne scallions and peppers. Coarsely chop peanuts. Cut stem end from lettuce and gently separate leaves.

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  • Heat olive oil on medium high in a heavy pan and brown onions, garlic and hearts of palm.  Cook about five minutes, or until veggies are seared and browned but not burnt.

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  • Reduce heat and add water chestnuts and zucchini/mushrooms and saute for a few minutes.

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  • Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar and honey in a small bowl.  Pour over veggie mixture and cook several minutes.

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  • To serve, spoon veggie filling into  lettuce cups (I like a double cup). Top with scallions, peppers and peanuts.  Drizzle with srirachia, if desired.

Asian Lettuce Wraps

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 

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1 can hearts of palm
1 can sliced water chestnuts
1/2 large red onion (or yellow onion)
4 cloves garlic
1 zucchini (optional)
6 brown mushrooms (optional)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsn rice vinegar (or gf liquid aminos)
1 Tbsn sesame oil
1 tsp honey
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

TOPPINGS

8 lettuce leaves
1/3 cup roasted peanuts
2 scallions, sliced or julienned
2 red chili peppers, chopped or julienned
Sriracha or other hot sauce (optional)

  • Drain hearts of palm and water chestnuts.  Roughly chop both and set aside
  • Cut onion into small dice and chop garlic.  Prepare toppings, either slice, chop or julienne scallions and peppers. Coarsely chop peanuts. Cut stem end from lettuce and gently separate leaves.
  • Heat olive oil on medium high in a heavy pan and brown onions, garlic and hearts of palm.  Cook about five minutes, or until veggies are seared and browned but not burnt.
  • Reduce heat and add water chestnuts and zucchini/mushrooms and saute for a few minutes.
  • Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar and honey in a small bowl.  Pour over veggie mixture and cook several minutes.
  • To serve, spoon veggie filling into  lettuce cups (I like a double cup)
  • Top with scallions, peppers and peanuts.  Drizzle with srirachia, if desired.