What are Chicken Lettuce Cups?

Escarole can be used in lettuce cups.

Chicken Lettuce Cups are a way to serve chicken that is usually chopped, grated, ground or chopped, so that it is presented inside a lettuce leaf that acts as a bowl to contain the chicken and other ingredients. In some cases, chicken lettuce cups are designed to be consumed with utensils, in which case the lettuce is primarily ornamental or made to be cut and eaten into pieces with the chicken. Other times, especially in some Asian preparations, lettuce cups should be folded and eaten with your hands, like a wrapper or burrito. Chicken inside lettuce can be prepared in a variety of ways, although all ingredients are usually chopped into small pieces and very runny sauces are avoided to help maintain presentation. Chicken lettuce cups are a traditional dish in some Asian cuisines, but their popularity in other types of cuisine can be partially attributed to their adoption by various commercial restaurant chains.

Mung beans, which are often used to make a cup of lettuce.

The type of lettuce used to make chicken lettuce cups can vary, although the two most popular types are iceberg lettuce and boston bib lettuce. Iceberg lettuce provides strong leaves to set the chicken down, while iceberg lettuce has a more delicate and tender flavor. Other types of lettuce that can be used include escarole for a distinctive flavor or romaine lettuce leaves. The key is to choose a type of lettuce with leaves that are large and strong enough to support the chicken.

When making the stuffing for chicken lettuce cups, the first step is to cook the chicken, either by frying, sautéing or roasting the pieces. Once cooked, the chicken can be cut into small pieces, grated or chopped into small cubes. Alternatively, you can use ground chicken for a finer texture and easier preparation. Like any chicken recipe, the chicken can be marinated first or cooked with ingredients such as soy sauce, sesame oil, butter, onion, or white wine for flavor.

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Once the chicken is cooked, the rest of the recipe can be made up of just about anything. An Asian recipe for chicken lettuce cups might add mushrooms, water chestnuts, mung beans, bell peppers, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and ginger. For a Mediterranean version, tomatoes, olives, artichokes, mozzarella cheese, onions and lemon juice can be used. Mexican-style chicken lettuce cups can be made by mixing chicken with gravy, cumin, coriander, and chili, and sprinkling the finished cup with a little grated cheese.

To assemble chicken lettuce cups, lettuce leaves are usually crocheted beforehand so they are cool and then completely dry. The hot stuffing for the lettuce cups is then spooned onto the lettuce, along with any additional toppings. The amount of stuffing used can vary, with large amounts indicating the dish should be consumed with utensils and smaller amounts providing enough space for the lettuce to be folded and eaten as a wrapper.

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