Saturday, April 5, 2014

Southeast Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps

The hubs and I are still enjoying our eating plan that focuses on plenty of protein and vegetables, quality fats, and limited gluten and carbs. We both have more stable energy levels throughout the day, and it's been fun / challenging to create new lunch and dinner meals that don't include grains.

One of our favorite regional cuisines is southeast Asian, which influences a lot of the food options here in Australia. At the moment we're steering clear of grains, though, and it can be hard to find southeast Asian food without rice or rice noodles. Last weekend I thought I would try to recreate the delicious lettuce wraps I remembered from trips to P.F. Chang's with friends in high school. Now, P.F. Chang's is hardly as authentic as some of the food we can get in Sydney, but those chicken lettuce wraps of theirs were awesome!
southeast asian style beef lettuce wraps, flavorful & filling, paleo-friendly & gluten-free
We subbed lean ground beef for chicken, and mixed it up with mushrooms, onions, and some celery for crunch. For dipping sauces we used our favorite store-bought oyster sauce thinned out with some mirin, vinegar, and water, and we mixed up a simple spicy mustard to go with it. The chopped basil and mint, combined with the sauces drizzled on top, made for incredibly fresh and delicious beef lettuce wraps-- better than the P.F. Chang's version that I remember!  We made these a meal by serving them with steamed, thinly sliced green cabbage and radishes, tossed in a little toasted sesame oil and soy sauce with freshly ground pepper.
tasty beef lettuce wraps with steamed cabbage and radishes
We liked this meal so much we're repeating it tonight. Highly recommend trying these-- they're gluten-free, dairy-free, full of protein and vegetables, and, as we say in Oz, tasty as

Beef Lettuce Wraps
Serves 2 - 3 as a main dish

1 tablespoon oil (cooking olive oil)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely diced mushrooms
1/4 cup finely sliced celery
500g (1 lb) ground beef (high quality, grass-fed preferred)
2 tablespoons soy sauce (divided use; make sure it's gluten-free if you're cooking g-f)
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (divided use)
1/4 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
pinch of freshly ground pepper

To Serve: 

8 Romaine, butter, or iceburg lettuce leaves, washed and chilled

Oyster sauce:
oyster sauce
1/4 teaspoon mirin
1/4 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon water
pinch of freshly ground pepper

Hot mustard sauce:
1 tablespoon mustard
1/4 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/8 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 to 1 teaspoon water

Herb mix:
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint 
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the oils and swirl to coat pan. Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1 further minute. Add diced mushrooms, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, mirin, half of the rice vinegar, and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring to make sure it doesn't burn. Add ground beef, remaining tablespoon of soy sauce, remaining rice vinegar, chili flakes, and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish. 

Meanwhile, make the sauces. In a small serving dish, mix together all ingredients for the oyster sauce, adding enough water to make it a runny enough to spoon easily. In another small serving dish, mix together all ingredients for the hot mustard, adding enough water to make it runny enough to spoon easily.

To Serve: Arrange the beef mixture, lettuce leaves, serving sauces, and herb mix on a serving or dining table, and let guests help themselves to building their own lettuce wraps with accompanying garnishes.

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