Lately, I’ve seen many recipes using coarsely ground nuts, walnuts or pecans as a “meat” substitute and said to myself that I should give it a try. But just eating nuts without some kind of balance seemed a little extreme. Some recipes did mix the nuts with lentils and some with bulgur or other grains, but I kept thinking that still sounded heavy. And although it has been unseasonably chilly here in the Northeast, there are limits to summertime eating and lighter food and meals in general just feel more appealing.
Speaking of the weather, what the what? I am away in Rhode Island and came equipped with very little outwear and have had to borrow jackets and wraps from friends twice while at events given my limited repertoire! I am hopeful that the tide is turning, my husband is bringing down a few supplies and the long arm of Amazon may come to the rescue with a few necessities to tie me over.
Anyway, back to the recipe. I was headed to a very small gathering and a couple of appetizers were being brought by others that were Thai inspired. Since they were all protein based (chicken, beef, crab), I wanted to make something vegetarian and in my search happened upon this recipe for Plant-Based Thai Lettuce Wraps from Simple Green Smoothies. My reasoning was simple – I had a lot of mushrooms in my fridge so look no further. And I would finally get to try a recipe that incorporated finely chopped nuts as a “meat” swap.
Mushrooms are chopped and sauteed with some shallots, celery, ginger and garlic until their water content is cooked off. To that, chopped walnuts are added and heated through. A mixture of Tamari, lime juice, coconut sugar (I substituted light brown sugar and used less of it) and unseasoned rice vinegar are added with a pinch of red pepper flakes. After the mushrooms and walnuts simmer for a bit to absorb the sauce, freshly chopped cilantro and mint are added.
Butter or Boston lettuce leaves are the best for wraps because they have a soft rib, but you can absolutely use Romaine if that’s what you have. Put a little of the mixture into the lettuce and top it with some grated carrot, sliced scallion and a big sprinkling of fresh herbs. I used basil and mint because that’s what I had enough of, but definitely use cilantro or what’s ideal is the 3 combined. Side note, if you find recipes that call for Thai basil and can’t find any (it’s often only sold at Asian markets), a good substitute is basil and mint in combination. Back to the wraps, I would go so far as to add some Sriracha as a condiment (I did when I tested them out) for some added heat. And you can absolutely add some rice to make the dish more filling.
This was the set up I brought to my friend’s house for make your own wraps…
And this is a shot of my tester, you know, just to make sure the flavors were just right…
Mushrooms are one of my favorites when they are cooked or grilled and make a perfect foil for meat. The recipe called for button mushrooms, but I had several shitakes that I wanted to use up so I added those in as well. I also put a little more mushroom and a little less walnuts in then the recipe called for but by all means keep the nuts in the recipe, assuming you are not serving to anyone with allergies, as they provide the texture you need to make the wraps have that important mouth feel.
As I mentioned, I also cut down on the sugar I used in the recipe by cutting it in half but if you tend to like things on the sweeter side, then use 2 Tablespoons of sugar. Always taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking – more acid from the lime juice, sweetness from the sugar, salt from the tamari, or heat from the pepper flakes.
And if you are a fan of Thai food and haven’t tried the recipe for Turkey Larb Lettuce Cups here on the blog, you really need to give these a go! My friend, Francine says she makes them a lot for her family who gobbles them up!
I hope you make these Mushroom Thai Lettuce Cups soon. Please report back if you do! Until next time…