SERVES 4 TO 6 AS APPETIZER OR SNACK
3/4 lb ground chicken, turkey, beef or pork
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons high-heat cooking oil
1 to 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/3 cup chopped red onion
4 to 6 fresh shitake mushrooms, diced
4-8 peeled water chestnuts (fresh or canned), finely diced
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce
16 cup-shaped lettuce leaves (Boston Bibb, Butter head, Iceberg or any lettuce with cup shaped leaves)
One 11-oz can mandarin orange sections, drained
1. In a bowl, marinate the ground poultry or meat with the soy sauce, wine and cornstarch for 10 minutes at room temperature.
2. Heat a wok or large frying pan over high heat and when hot, add the oil. Swirl to coat and add the garlic, ginger and red onion. Fry for 15 to 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the ground meat. Cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the fresh shitake mushrooms, water chestnuts, rice vinegar and oyster sauce. Simmer for an additional 1 to 2 minutes until the meat is cooked through.
3. You can assemble the lettuce cups by spooning a heaping tablespoonful of filling into each lettuce cup and topping with the mandarin orange slices or you can serve the ingredients separately for your dinner guests to assemble themselves.
* Remember how I said this recipe is flexible? Raid your fridge. Finely diced green bell pepper, celery, frozen peas/carrots work great in the stir-fry. Even top the lettuce cups with chilled, shredded carrots!
* For a fun crunch, take a skein of mung bean noodles (also called cellophane noodles or vermicelli) and break it apart with your hands. Heat about 11/2 inches of high-heat cooking oil in a small pot or wok. When the oil reaches 350°F, slide a few noodles in and watch them puff up. It should take less than 5 seconds. Drain on a rack. The light, airy, crunchy bits of noodles make a wonderful topping for these lettuce cups.
* For a bit of salty sweetness, you can also dip the back of a teaspoon into a jar of hoisin sauce. Smear the hoisin sauce onto the lettuce cup before adding the filling.