I recently checked my cholesterol and it’s still a bit over what’s officially classified as high. I promised my doctor that I was going to bring it down by next year through a plan of eating less animal meat and limiting my cupcakes. (Hey, I knew I would be lying if I said I would completely cut out cupcakes, and I do not lie to my doctor.)

So that brings me to this lettuce cups recipe. Lettuce cups (also known as lettuce wraps) are pretty popular at Chinese restaurants. It’s probably what introduced Americans to the words “mu shu gai pan” because that’s the name of the common filling of minced chicken or pork. Placed into a fresh iceberg lettuce and the crisp and crunch make the entire bite refreshing. (My family loves to order lettuce cups when we would go out for dinner, but I have to say it’s a really messy dish with the juices running down the side of your arms as you try to keep your lettuce cup together.)

I knew eating something in lettuce would be healthy, and instead of chicken or pork, I used shrimp. And for some extra good oils, I threw in some avocado (it doesn’t add anything to the taste but just makes me feel better). There are some traditional ingredients like the water chestnuts and shiitake mushrooms, but this is definitely a newer, fresher version of lettuce cups. Enjoy!

Easy to make, just mostly dicing all the ingredients

Shrimp Avocado Lettuce Cups Recipe
Makes 6 to 8 small servings

1 head of iceberg lettuce
6 oz. medium sized shrimp, diced into small chunks
1 avocado, pitted and cut into small cubes
4 to 5 shiitake mushrooms (fresh or dried*), diced
1 yellow bell pepper (or red), finely diced
2.5 oz. water chestnuts from can, finely diced
1.5 T hoisin sauce (use extra for dipping)
1 t ground white pepper
2 t oyster sauce
1 T rice wine vinegar
1 T Canola or vegetable oil
couple squirts of Sriracha hot sauce
juice from one lime
1 stalk green onion, finely diced (reserve some for garnish)

Devein and clean shrimp, then dice into small chunks. Blend in small bowl with white pepper, oyster sauce, rice wine vinegar and hoisin. Set aside.

Cut avocado in half and remove pit. Slice flesh into cubes and spoon out of avocado shell and place in small both and mix with the lime juice. (This helps keep the avocado from turning black.)

If using fresh shiitake mushrooms, start by sweating the mushrooms in the oil heated over medium high heat in a non-stick skillet (add a pinch of salt). When mushrooms start to sweat and turn from white to grey, add bell pepper and cook for another minute. (If you’re not using fresh mushrooms, then just start by cooking the bell pepper alone.) Push everything to the side of the skillet and add shrimp to the center and cook for 30 seconds before blending with all the ingredients.

Add water chestnuts and spring onion and cook until shrimp is pink and ready. (If using dried mushrooms, add them here with the water chestnuts.) If your filling seems dry, add 1/4 cup of water or chicken broth. Remove from heat and then gently fold in the avocado bits.

Create lettuce cups by carefully removing each layer of lettuce and rinsing clean. Pat dry with paper towel. (If you want it to be a perfect cup, you can use kitchen shears and cut around the edges to make each cup even.) Serve filling with lettuce cups and more hoisin sauce on the side to add, if wish. Garnish with more fresh green onions.

*When using dried mushrooms, you’ll need to rehydrate them for the recipe by boiling in a pot of water with a splash of soy sauce until plump. Then remove and rinse in cold water and then squeeze out excess water. Then finely dice to blend with the rest of the ingredients.

TIP: Hoisin sauce, often used with duck, is sold in Asian stores in a jar. If you can’t find hoisin sauce, you can try to make your own by mixing some ketchup with Worcestershire sauce.

Punch of taste comes in the marinade for the shrimp, primarily hoisin with oyster sauce and squirt of hot sauce

Quick to make: Just sweat the mushrooms then add bellpepper and finally the shrimp, followed by waterchestnuts and finally avocado

Prepping the lettuce cup is tedious work as you try not to rip the leaves to retain a full bowl shape, trim for uniformity

The finished dish ... simple, fast, and light chow for the warm weather

7 Responses to Keeping Things Fresh with My Lettuce Cups

  1. Sandy says:

    Wow Ben– I’d be totally nervous to take on such a recipe (I leave the lettuce wraps to PF Changs.. seriously their lettuce wraps are actually really good!). I will have to say though, you make it look easy and now I’m tempted to try this… any suggestions for replacing the avocado or can I just remove it altogether?

    • Ben Ben says:

      LOL, you’re the second person I’ve seen on the web talking about how great PF Chang’s lettuce cups are. What makes them so good? To me, lettuce wraps are really just stir-fry but with really small bits ingredients to make it easy to eat. And the hoisin sauce is the main taste profile that’s associated with it. Do you taste something else in PF Chang’s version?

      You can definitely just drop the avocado. Like I said, it doesn’t add anything except just the knowledge you get that good Omega-3 fat. But you still might want to garnish with a wedge of lime because I like the tartness with the shrimp.

  2. Carolyn Jung says:

    Avocado makes everything better. I bet even a little bit of fresh chopped mango would go well with these lettuce wraps, too. Yum!

    • Ben Ben says:

      Yum, mango sounds great with this combo. Good suggestion! (Though probably not as healthy as avocado.)

  3. hungry dog says:

    This sounds great. I love lettuce cup…my dad used to make it a lot and I love getting it as part of a Chinese banquet. This recipe is very clever and let’s face it: I will eat anything with avocado in it.

  4. BLee says:

    Looks good. I like to use butter (bibb) lettuce, which I think is more flexible and does a better job of holding the filling together. No use starting the meal with messy fingers!

    I’ve also had a version with chopped clams. Extremely good. No doubt crabmeat would be delicious too.

    • Ben Ben says:

      I agree butter lettuce has a better form for the cups, but I’m not a fan of the velvety texture. Still, there definitely are alternatives to the iceberg, which I admit is not that nutritious but definitely traditional. I really wanted to use Savoy cabbage because of its beautiful shape and color, but doesn’t seem to be in season. And all those seafood you mention sounds yummy!