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Cutting carbs? ‘Lettuce’ tempt you with this Asian burrito alternative

Recipe: Lettuce wraps with spicy pork or chicken filling

Lettuce wraps
Spiced chicken or pork makes a delicious filling
for lettuce wraps. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Lettuce wraps have been part of Chinese cuisine for centuries. Think of a lettuce wrap as a burrito with a leaf instead of a tortilla. They’re fun food that’s also low in carbohydrates.

Any large-leaf lettuce will do, although you may need to double-layer leaves for a better wrap. Iceberg, Boston bibb lettuce and romaine are common wrappers because their leaves are naturally sturdy.

For this recipe, I used home-grown Red Sails loose leaf lettuce. It was as delicious as it was pretty (but extra napkins came in handy).

Meat and veggies cook quickly in a wok.
Lettuce wraps with spicy pork or chicken filling

Makes 4 appetizer servings or 2 main dish servings


2 tablespoons oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/3 cup onion, diced

1/3 cup celery, diced

2/3 cup mushrooms, diced

½ cup carrots, grated

1 cup cooked pork or chicken, diced

2 tablespoons dry white wine

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon ginger

½ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder*

½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Lettuce leaves

Hoisin sauce

Homegrown Red Sails lettuce makes a colorful and delicious


In a wok or large heavy skillet, heat oil. Add garlic and saute until slightly golden, stirring often. Add onion and celery; stir fry until vegetables start to turn soft, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms; stir fry until mushrooms soften and start to release their juices, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add carrots, stir fry to blend; about 1 minute.

Add chopped cooked pork or chicken, stirring to blend. Add wine; stir and let simmer, about 2 minutes.

Blend soy sauce with cornstarch, sugar, ginger and five-spice powder. Stir this soy-cornstarch mix into liquid in the pan. Add red pepper flakes to taste. Stir fry until sauce become translucent and coats meat and vegetables, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer to bowl and keep warm.

To serve: Gently separate lettuce into large leaves. Smear about 1 teaspoon of hoisin sauce on inside of leaf. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling on top and roll leaf around filling like a burrito, folding one end to seal the filling inside. Eat immediately, with plenty of napkins.

*Chinese five-spice powder is a traditional blend of cinnamon, star anise, cloves, ginger and pepper; use sparingly.


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A recipe for preparing delicious meals from the bounty of the garden.


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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Jan. 29

Bundle up and get work done!

* Prune, prune, prune. Now is the time to cut back most deciduous trees and shrubs. The exceptions are spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs.

* Now is the time to prune fruit trees, except apricot and cherry trees. Clean up leaves and debris around the trees to prevent the spread of disease.

* Prune roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom or sprouting new growth. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

* Prune Christmas camellias (Camellia sasanqua), the early-flowering varieties, after their bloom. They don’t need much, but selective pruning can promote bushiness, upright growth and more bloom next winter. Feed with an acid-type fertilizer. But don’t feed your Japonica camellias until after they finish blooming next month. Feeding while camellias are in bloom may cause them to drop unopened buds.

* Clean up leaves and debris around your newly pruned roses and shrubs. Put down fresh mulch or bark to keep roots cozy.

* Apply horticultural oil to fruit trees to control scale, mites and aphids. Oils need 24 hours of dry weather after application to be effective.

* This is also the time to spray a copper-based oil to peach and nectarine trees to fight leaf curl. Avoid spraying on windy days.

* Divide daylilies, Shasta daisies and other perennials.

* Cut back and divide chrysanthemums.

* Plant bare-root roses, trees and shrubs.

* Transplant pansies, violas, calendulas, English daisies, snapdragons and fairy primroses.

* In the vegetable garden, plant fava beans, head lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radicchio and radishes.

* Plant bare-root asparagus and root divisions of rhubarb.

* In the bulb department, plant callas, anemones, ranunculus and gladiolus for bloom from late spring into summer.

* Plant blooming azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. If you’re shopping for these beautiful landscape plants, you can now find them in full flower at local nurseries.

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