Copycat P.F. Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps

by Jenn on September 17, 2010

in Dairy Free,Diabetic Friendly,Gluten Free,Meats,Photography,Snacks

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

P.F. Changs may not have been the most authentic Asian restaurant we ever frequented in the States, but on our then extremely limited graduate student budgets we could go out to eat, be sure there was gluten free goodness, and get like 6 portions of food for $40 – a near steal for eating out.  We would always order an appetizer, then my husband would get a fried rice and I’d get a rice noodle dish.  Considering we were ordering as much for the leftovers as we were for the experience there, it was easier later if I also got a gluten free dish.  One thing I can really commend them on, besides having a gluten free  menu and system in place before most other restaurants knew what gluten free was, was their chicken lettuce wraps.  I think they were our favorite dish out of the menu, and they certainly became a tradition of sorts whenever we went there.

Now that we live in the opposite of large-chain-restaurant-society, there haven’t been a whole of P.F. Changs’ lettuce wraps to enjoy.  A local Vietnamese place we sometimes go to serves some rouleaux d’été that are fantastic, in rice wraps with shrimp and pork and a spicy dipping sauce.  But we also can’t go out to eat and get 6 meals worth of food for $40 here (which probably isn’t a bad thing).  So when we both got a craving for some chicken lettuce wraps, my google search led me to Wasabimon, a gluten free blog with a perfect looking copycat recipe.

I won’t bother reposting the recipe here, because I really didn’t change much – the sauce I kept the exact same, and the filling changes I made were relatively minor.  I didn’t have any water chestnuts, so instead to add some crunch I added in slivered almonds, scallions and some fresh mung beans.  And the black sesame seeds just help make it pretty.

We then made them again for some Swiss friends who came over one night as dinner guests.  We paired the lettuce wraps with some coconut lime rice and sautéed shrimp, and I explained that while on the surface it may not look it, this meal was quite American.  It’s not burgers and hotdogs and french fries American, but it is definitely in the spirit of American culture.  A very fun side of American cuisine is often about incorporating elements of various nationalities all in one dish, or taking a couple key flavors and then reinventing them in a totally new way.  So of course these chicken lettuce wraps aren’t an authentic Chinese cuisine.  They are an entirely new creation altogether, and that is very American.  Sometimes we Americans are a bit of a fondue pot, blending different varieties seamlessly together, and sometimes we are more of a beef stew, each individual element retaining its identity while still contributing to the overall concept.  I think these lettuce wraps are a bit of both.

Living en Suisse, I was at first quite surprised to see the amount of cultural diversity within such a small country – and I surely have not seen everything, there are entire regions I have yet to travel to.  I still haven’t figured out if the Swiss culture embodies more of a “melting pot” or “beef stew” concept – because as I, a foreigner, sees it, there are quite distinct cultures within this land, but there is also a strong sense of continuity and national pride, and each culture is markedly different from the bordering countries that share the same languages.  Recently, I took a trip to a very unique area from my usual Suisse Romande; I ventured into Ticino, the Italian speaking canton.  South of the Alps, it is warm with palm trees dotting the hillsides and roads, and terracotta rooftops make the towns look as if they were a scene taken right out of a quiet Italian countryside.  And yet, if you look closer, everything is still decidedly Swiss (like being able to order un café en français without anyone batting an eye).

Verscio Verscio

I also love learning about the history and age of a place.  Take for example this small town near the Lago Maggiore, Verscio.  Paintings adorn so many of the walls, and some have the luxury of displaying dates.  One I saw was from 1740, over 250 years ago!  Sometimes things can be slow to change en Suisse; it’s part of what makes everything so beautiful. I love new and modern like where I live, but I also have a place in my heart for the old and well-worn, for those places that you know have been around so long there must be some great stories hidden within the memories of those walls.  I have a feeling this is one such place.  After I got back from my excursion, I found this photo taken over 100 years ago of the very same church and vineyard that my own feet walked by mere days ago.  It looks almost exactly the same to me, including the funky shaped steeple.  The “old” part of town is still here, as it was then.  Just a few generations later – different kids laughing as they amble down the streets, different puppies being walked by their owners, sniffing out all the scents of the past, but those same old walls.  It’s quite magical really.

Swiss grapes for tasty wine Verscio

Maybe I think too much and get a bit too introspective about lettuce wraps.  But I don’t mind, because then I can share with you so many other things than just the food that was on my plate.  Because life is so much more than simply the food on our plates – it can even be the centerpiece of new memories made with great friends.  Speaking of food, everything I had in Ticino was exquisite.  From mountains of polenta that rivaled the Alps to fresh gelati alla fragola that took some serious self-control to not give yourself a brainfreeze because the flavor was so intense it was almost unreal, well it’s pretty obvious I was in a happy place.  I will definitely be coming back to this region again :)

Also linked to – Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays

Disclaimer – I was not compensated nor asked to mention P.F. Changs in any way by anyone.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

GFree_Miel September 17, 2010 at 10:00 pm

What beautiful photographs! They make me desperate to travel internationally again.
That lettuce wrap looks really yummy! I go to P.F. Chang’s often enough as there’s one right by my school. I always get lettuce wraps when I go so this is awesome.

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Jenn September 17, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Thanks!! I’ve made this at least 3 x now so far, love it!

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Rosa September 17, 2010 at 10:17 pm

A delicious dish and wonderful post! Your Ticino shots are awesome!

Cheers et bon weekend,

Rosa

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Jenn September 17, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Merci Rosa!! Et toi aussi!

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May Ling Wu September 17, 2010 at 10:57 pm

I love these from PF Changs! Beautiful pictures, looks magical, like a fairy tail.

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Jenn September 18, 2010 at 12:04 am

Thank you! It felt magical too when I visited!

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Kocinera September 18, 2010 at 3:47 am

Those lettuce wraps look delicious! Also, your photos are sooo gorgeous! :)

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Jenn September 18, 2010 at 8:13 am

Thanks so much!

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AmandaonMaui September 18, 2010 at 10:00 am

Your post is gorgeous!

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Jenn September 18, 2010 at 10:10 am

Thank you!

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InTolerantChef September 18, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Isn’t it great when you can recreate your favourite restaurant dish at home? I have been known to devote waaaaay to much time trying to capture the exact essence of a great gfree meal so I can share it again and again. Glad it worked out for you!

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Jenn September 18, 2010 at 3:43 pm

haha, yes it certainly is, especially when we don’t have the restaurant available to us (or one that serves a similar dish)… we’ve been enjoying this so much!

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Sophie September 18, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Lovely pictures, Jenn!

Thanks for sharing! I love stuffed chicken slad wraps! You can pu anything you want in them & they are so versatile too! Your wraps look wonderful & MMMMMMMMMMMMM,…!!!!

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Jenn September 19, 2010 at 3:40 am

Thank you Sophie!

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pierre September 19, 2010 at 7:40 pm

hi jenn very nice recipe !!Bravo Pierre

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Jenn September 19, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Merci bien Pierre!

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Lisa@bakedinmaine.com September 20, 2010 at 6:40 am

I absolutely LOVE P. F. Changs’s Lettuce Wraps!!!!
I can’t wait to make them at home!!!!!

PS. Gorgeous photos, as usual!

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Jenn September 20, 2010 at 8:17 am

Thanks Lisa! I am sure you’ll love this recipe then, we sure did!

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Amy @ Simply Sugar & Gluten Free September 21, 2010 at 4:22 pm

We’ve been playing around with a lettuce wrap recipe…it’s not the PF Chang’s version but it’s good. :) I was really missing lettuce wraps because I can’t eat sugar. So, I did what we always do – I made my own recipe. Your pics are incredible. Really. Someday, Jenn, I might be able to take pics like you. :)

Thanks for linking to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday!

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Jenn September 21, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Thanks Amy! I would imagine these lettuce wraps would be quite forgiving if you wanted to use a different sweetener than sugar – but then, it’s also fun to come up with your own too :)

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Miz Helen September 21, 2010 at 9:25 pm

Just stopping by from Amy’s blog. I am so excited about your lettuce wraps and can’t wait to try them. Your photo’s are so peaceful, great blog! Thank you…

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Jenn September 21, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Thank you so much, I hope you like them!

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Alexei Pogorelich February 18, 2011 at 7:26 am

So of course these chicken lettuce wraps aren’t an authentic Chinese cuisine. They are an entirely new creation altogether, and that is very American.
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as I know, the famous Tao restaurants(www.taorestaurant.com) serve a cuisine called squab lettuce wraps , which is certainly an authentic Chinese cuisine.
P.F. Chang’s they just replace squab with chicken. So I don’t think these chicken lettuce wraps are entirely new creation.

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Jenn February 18, 2011 at 8:15 am

Interesting, thanks! I’d never seen lettuce wraps anywhere before except at very Americanized Chinese restaurants or as “low-carb” options in sandwich shops in the U.S., and definitely have not seen them anywhere en Suisse yet…so thanks for letting me know!

I don’t know P.F. Chang’s actual recipe or if the ingredients are the same as this recipe here (as this was a copycat recipe that I made), but I bet a traditional Chinese version wouldn’t include both ketchup and dijon mustard in the sauce though. I’m guessing that these chicken lettuce wraps aren’t so authentic ;)

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Dick Monaco September 26, 2011 at 1:57 am

Hi,

My grandfather took that photo on his trip back to his native Ticino in 1908. Actually he took 350 pictures of Valle Maggia which I am trying to get on the JB Monaco web site….
Dick Monaco

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