Have you been to PF Chang’s?
If not, I feel so bad for you.
I’m kidding…but not really.
I first visited them in Florida on a family vacation and we had really yummy stuff. But my all-time favourite were their lettuce cups. It was brought to the table un-assembled and, for me, the best part was putting it all together.
You seriously got the feeling that, because it was so much work, there couldn’t possibly more calories in the dish than you were expending putting them together!
I’m pretty sure I was wrong but whatevs…
Fast forward a few years, and they built a PF Chang’s in the north end of Toronto. I was like, “hoooooray for lettuce cups”…until they closed 🙁
Not sure what the problem was, but I figured I loved them so much, I better figure out how to make them myself.
I mastered the recipe (my way, of course) and I’ve done it a ton of times. The problem is that I’ve always just thrown what I thought would work together. But, now that it’s the new year and everyone is thinking about healthy grub, I thought I’d put some proper measurements down and I’d do a version that is vegan (please don’t roll your eyes…no really, please don’t…I’ll give you a meat option at the end).
The recipe looks like there are a lot of ingredients but it’s really just the prep work (sorry, but there’s a bit of chopping). I used tofu in this recipe (and before you roll your eyes…again…hear me out). Until recently, I despised tofu…it was just so “nondescript”. I mean, it doesn’t really taste like anything…and it’s mushy…and it’s grey. Did I say it’s mushy? And grey?
But, when you realize that it’s like a blank canvas and will absorb whatever flavour you like, it became glorious! You just need to crisp it up a bit and coat it in any luxurious sauce you fancy and then, you are GOLDEN!!
The nice thing about this recipe is that you can make it ahead of time and either keep it warm or serve it at room temp…both ways are deeeelish!
You can serve it to your guests “a la PF Chang style”…serve yourself. I mean, YOU invited your guests to YOUR house for a meal. Do you really need to do ALL the work??
Seriously though, these are so versatile and can be adapted to any palate or diet. Don’t do carbs? Then eliminate the noodles (even though they are gluten free!!). Want more veg? Double the veg portion…easily!
Want more of a “meat” feeling but without meat? Use my vegan bolognese sauce (minus the tomato sauce…the “meat filling” which is just mushrooms and nuts, is glorious!!)
Do you REALLY want meat? Hey, I don’t blame ya! Just cook up some chopped onions in some olive oil, add some ground chicken, brown it up and add some soy sauce to flavour. Add it to the tofu mix or serve it on the side for people to help themselves.
Again, people should know they sometimes have to work for their dinner!!
Honestly, this dish gets rave reviews whenever I make it. People can’t believe how easy it is. Do y’all think you can give it a try? I would be soooooo happy if you could.
And here is a pinnable image if you need that too…
‘Cause I’m all about helping my peeps,right?
Better Than PF Chang's Lettuce Cups (and they're vegan too!)
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup sesame oil
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp chili paste (adjust according to you taste)
- 1 tbsp honey (sugar if you're vegan)
- 1 knob fresh ginger (about 1" peeled)
- 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 250 g rice noodles (about 1/2 package)
- 1 container extra firm tofu (not silken)
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp tbsp canola oil
- 1/2 cup minced celery
- 1/2 cup minced carrot
- 1 tin (8 oz) water chesnuts, drained and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Lettuce leaves for wrapping (I like Boston or Romaine)
- Additional garnish items like cilantro, chopped peanuts, grated carrots or lime wedges
- Prepare the peanut sauce first so it can sit and to let the flavours marry: blend peanut butter, 1/4 c soy sauce, 1/4 c sesame oil, 1/4 c rice vinegar, chili paste, honey and ginger plus about 1/3 cup water together in a food processor until smooth and creamy; set aside.
- Prepare the marinade: In a small bowl, stir together the hoisin, 3 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp rice vinegar, and 1 tbsp sesame oil. Set aside.
- Cook your noodles in boiling water according to the package directions; drain and toss with about 2 tbsp sesame oil and set aside.
- Prepare the tofu by pressing the tofu with a few paper towels to dry it out; cut it into small pieces.
- Heat the canola oil in a nonstick skillet and add tofu; stir-fry until golden brown (about 10 minutes).
- Now add the celery, carrot, water chestnuts and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add the marinade to the pan and fry for another 3-5 minutes; transfer to a bowl.
- To make cups, fill the lettuce leaves with some of the noodle mixture, then add some of the tofu mixture. Top each cup with peanut sauce and with additional with peanuts, cashews, cilantro, scallions, or lime
- Enjoy warm or at room temperature (additional/left over peanut sauce can be frozen for another time!)