Back in my carefree college days I loved the Kung Pao chicken at a local family-run Chinese restaurant in Georgetown. What I loved about Mrs. Chen’s version was that it was crisp and spicy without being deep-fried. I can’t say it was health food, but it certainly was delicious!
Kung Pao isn’t something I’d order nowadays, nor have I ever ordered it for my ids. When I saw a recipe for a different take on the dish in October’s Cooking Light, I couldn’t wait to try it out. While they use corn tortillas to serve the chicken up taco-style, I chose to use the lighter, grain-free option of iceberg lettuce. I really think the crisp, fresh flavor of the lettuce wrap paired perfectly with the zip of the sauce and crunch of the nuts and celery.
I also incorporated the red pepper and green onion Cooking Light uses as a garnish into the chicken mixture itself; I felt it made the dish more kid-friendly (mine wouldn’t necessarily choose the onion or pepper if it was left large), and made it easier to contain within the lettuce.
My take on this fun dish is free of dairy, gluten, grains and sugar. Even Cooking Light’s original version is dairy and gluten-free as written (just be careful of the soy sauce you choose if trying to avoid the gluten).
Kung Pao Lettuce Wraps
adapted from Cooking Light
6 boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
3 tbs. gluten-free soy sauce, divided
1/4 cup plus 1.5 tsp. arrowroot powder, divided
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbs. olive oil or coconut oil
1.5 tbs raw honey
1 tbs. dark sesame oil
2 tsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. sambal oelek
1 minced garlic clove
3 tbs. chopped raw cashews
2 stalks celery, diagonally sliced
1/3 cup diced green onions
1/2 red pepper, chopped
4 lime wedges
iceberg lettuce leaves
Place chicken thighs in a large zip-top bag. Add 1 tbs. soy sauce and allow to marinate at room temperature.
Place 1/4 cup arrowroot in a shallow dish. Remove chicken from bag, discarding marinade. Sprinkle chicken with salt and place in dish with arrowroot. Toss to coat.
Heat 1 tbs. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Shake excess arrowroot off chicken and add half to pan. Cook for 6 minutes or until brown; remove to paper towels. Repeat with remaining chicken and oil.
Meanwhile, put remaining soy sauce in a small microwave-safe bowl with honey through sambal oelek. Stir and heat on high for 1.5 minutes. Stir in garlic.
Put chopped celery, pepper and green onions in a large bowl. Add chicken and pour sauce over top, stirring to coat evenly.
Serve with iceberg lettuce to wrap and serve with lime wedges.