One of the best things about culinary school, for me, was learning how to make some of my favorite dishes. The perfect folded omelet? Check. Risotto? Check. And Kung Pao Chicken. Che–, wait, what? Yes, you read that right. I learned to make the best Kung Pao Chicken, really, the best, in the kitchen of my classic French culinary school. And I’m so glad I did. Kung Pao is stirfried chicken in a spicy sauce, topped with chopped peanuts. The heat comes from Sichuan peppers, those super spicy little red ones. Like most stir fries, Kung Pao is served over rice, but not this time.
Kung WOW Chicken & Quinoa Lettuce Cups
So, about these lettuce cups. I wanted all the flavors of Kung Pao, but lighter, so I ditched the rice and swapped ground chicken (ground turkey will work, too) for diced chicken breasts. The quinoa gives it a protein (and flavor) boost and just the right consistency for spooning into crispy lettuce cups. This twist on the original has less heat to accommodate my kid’s aversion to all things spicy, but still sings all the familiar notes of the Kung Pao you know and love. It’s not quite Kung Pao, but definitely Kung WOW.
Be careful not to over salt. Both soy and fish sauce have high sodium contents.
Lettuce leaves that are crisp and hold their shape work best.
Don’t fill the lettuce cups until just before you’re ready to eat them. Fill them too early and the lettuce will get soggy.
Large Sauté Pan
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- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 19-oz ground chicken or turkey
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 green onions, chopped, white and green parts separated
- 1 1/2 teaspoons grated Ginger
- 3 cups cooked quinoa
- 3 tablespoons Thai Sweet Chili Sauce
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 8-10 Iceberg or butter lettuce leaves, rinsed and patted dry
- 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
- Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add ground chicken, garlic, the white parts of the green onions and ginger. Add a pinch each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, 5-7 minutes.
- Add quinoa and stir until well mixed and quinoa is heated through.
- Whisk chili sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar and red pepper flakes together in a medium bowl. Add sauce to pan and stir until chicken and quinoa are evenly coated.
- Arrange lettuce cups on platter. Fill with chicken and quinoa. Garnish with the green parts of the green onions and chopped peanuts.
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