Asian Mushroom Lettuce Wraps

Savory garlic and ginger mushroom lettuce wraps. Filled with colorful vegetables and sprinkled with crunchy, flavorful toppings. Makes for a healthy dinner or lunch, and perfect for serving a crowd. Mushroom filling makes for a great tofu alternative. Vegan & Gluten Free. <jump to recipe>

This year is going be a tumultuous one, filled with upheaval, change and enthusiasm. At least that's what I was told a few weeks back. You see, it's the year of the monkey in Chinese culture. And while I'm not necessarily “into” astrology and the like - it most definitely makes for a good story. And considering the lady who told me this story also happened to be waxing me at the same time, I was clearly in the mood to listen. Because you never mess with a lady holding wax strips.

For some reason, this week had me thinking back to that hilarious discussion again. I wondered if she'd made the changes in her relationship as she said she would. Or if she got those weekends off she wanted. But mostly, I wondered if it was true: if in fact this year would be as tumultuous as she said.

Ask me a couple months back and I would have disagreed. Tumultuous – no way. But these past few weeks have really picked up. It's been fun, exhausting and energizing. All at once. Anguel and I are working on a couple busy projects at the moment. We've also decided to try out some new exercise routines – including spin class. I’m usually in the back, red faced, acting like I’m cranking up the tension along with everyone else, but mainly just trying to avoid passing out. It’s an art. Truly. We're also getting prepped for warmer months by setting up planter boxes in our back yard (yay for growing veggies), helping our patio shed its winter coat (months of rain do weird things to furniture), and generally just getting our life in order (taxes, yuk). That and we're prepping for a couple upcoming vacations, including one where Anguel's parents are coming to visit for a week!

 Asian Mushroom Lettuce Wraps // Natural Girl Modern World // Vegan &amp; Gluten Free
 Asian Mushroom Lettuce Wraps // Natural Girl Modern World // Vegan &amp; Gluten Free

To be honest, all this stuff has had me feeling a wee bit overwhelmed. So I chose to keep things pretty simple in the kitchen this week, opting for a dish that involved some low-stress vegetable prep (am I the only one that finds chopping vegetables relaxing?), minimal cooking and lots of fresh veggies. And funny enough, these Asian mushroom lettuce wraps so perfectly represent how I've been feeling recently. A mish-mash of different things going on (some might consider it chaos) that somehow seems to come together. And suddenly it all makes sense.

Lettuce wraps have been my jam for years. As a kid, they were one of my favorite things to order at Chinese restaurants. What’s not to love about crisp lettuce, a salty and savory filling, and lots of crunchy goodies to pile on top? And while back in the day they were anything but meat-free, these days I'm all about vegan lettuce wraps. Most vegan lettuce wraps use tofu in one way or another. Whether it's crumbled up like "meat" or sliced into thick pieces. I like to have a solid tofu-free version in my arsenal - it comes in handy with tofu-skittish friends (of which there are many). As it turns out, this mushroom version is quickly becoming our go-to. Because when you have these, who needs the tofu?

 Asian Mushroom Lettuce Wraps // Natural Girl Modern World // Vegan &amp; Gluten Free

Mushrooms form the meaty base for this filling. I like to use two types of mushrooms for a little extra flavor (cremini and shitake). That said, you should feel free to use whatever type of mushroom(s) you want / have. Carrots and celery add a bit of color and texture to the filling. And to make this a legit Asian inspired lettuce wrap, I like to throw in chopped water chestnuts and bamboo shoots into the mix. If you’re not familiar with either of these, not to fear. Neither have a particularly strong flavor, but they add a nice subtlety and extra texture. Both are usually stocked at your regular grocery store – they tend to be with the other canned vegetables or in the ethnic foods aisle. And as an added bonus, they’re quite affordable.

This dish comes together in a breeze. I recommend chopping up all your veggies in advance, so that when it comes to cooking, you can toss everything in at just the right time. The veggies cook really quickly, so they'll be ready in no time. Once your vegetables are stir fried in an easy Asian sauce, lay out some lettuce and crunchy toppings, and have everyone assemble their wraps at the table. It really couldn't be any easier. For extra crunch, we like to chop up some freshly roasted cashews, thinly sliced cabbage and tons of fresh herbs. The extras keep well in the fridge and make a great packable lunch the next day.

 Asian Mushroom Lettuce Wraps // Natural Girl Modern World // Vegan &amp; Gluten Free
 Asian Mushroom Lettuce Wraps // Natural Girl Modern World // Vegan &amp; Gluten Free
 Asian Mushroom Lettuce Wraps // Natural Girl Modern World // Vegan &amp; Gluten Free

ASIAN MUSHROOM LETTUCE WRAPS

SERVES 4-6 (VEGAN, GLUTEN FREE)

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, coconut)
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 1 lb/455 g mushrooms (mix of cremini and shitake suggested), diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 tablespoons liquid aminos (or tamari, soy sauce)* 
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 – 3 teaspoons Sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 can bamboo shoots (227 ml / 8 oz), rinsed well and chopped
  • 1 can water chestnuts (227 ml / 8 oz), rinsed well and chopped
  • 3 green onions, sliced

For serving:

  • 1 head of lettuce (e.g. butter lettuce)
  • Roasted cashews, chopped**
  • Red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • Cilantro and/or green onions, chopped
  • Optional - Thai red chili peppers

Directions

  1. In a cast iron skillet or wok, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes until soft. Add garlic and ginger – cook for 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes. Stir regularly to prevent mushrooms from sticking to the pan. 
  2. Once the mushrooms are softened, add carrots, celery, liquid aminos (or tamari / soy) and rice wine vinegar. Stir well to mix. Cook for another ~5 minutes, until the carrots and celery have softened (although still fairly crisp). Add chili sauce to your desired level of spice, and sesame oil. Stir to incorporate. Add in chopped bamboo shoots and water chestnuts . Cook for another 3-5 minutes until warmed, then add green onions and stir well to incorporate. 
  3. To serve, scoop a generous amount of filling into a lettuce leaf. Top with roasted cashews, thinly sliced cabbage, cilantro and/or green onions. For extra heat, you may serve with sliced thai red chili peppers on the side.

Notes:
*Liquid aminos has a great umami flavor, which makes it great for vegetarian / vegan cooking. Brands such as Bragg can often be found in the natural foods aisle of your local grocer.
**To roast your own cashews, preheat oven to 350°F. Pour nuts on baking tray and bake until golden brown (~10 minutes). Give the pan a shake half way through to ensure even browning.