Kung Pao Lettuce Cups

Adapted from: Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Yield: About 6 servings

"Kung Pao" usually refers to a Northern Chinese chicken dish made with diced vegetables, hot chilies, and peanuts. In this crunchy salad, the peanuts and diced vegetables are still present, but the chicken has turned into tofu. No cooking is necessary-just chop everything, toss it together, fill the lettuce cups, and sprinkle on the toppings. This makes a great, light summer lunch.

  • You can use plain firm tofu or one of the baked, seasoned varieties avaliable in natural foods stores.
  • Be sure to use seasoned rice vinegar (check the label). It has a sweet/salty flavor that is essential to the success of this dish.
  • The ingredients in Step 1 can be assembled several days in advance, then stored tightly covered in the refrigerator. Assemble everything else shortly before serving.
6 medium-sized carrots, in small dice
3 celery stalks, in small dice
1 5-ounce can water chestnuts, rinsed, drained, and diced (about 3/4 cup diced)
4 scallions, finely minced
A handful of cilantro, minced
3/4 pound firm tofu, cut in small cubes
1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar (possibly more, to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes or chili oil to taste
6 small leaves of butter (aka Boston) lettuce, cleaned, dried, and chilled
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted thoroughly
2/3 cup lightly toasted peanuts
A handful of snow peas, trimmed and cut in very thin strips on the diagonal (optional)
  1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the carrots, celery, water chestnuts, scallions, cilantro, tofu, and seasoned rice vinegar. Mix well, and add salt and pepper-and red pepper flakes or chili oil- to taste, if desired.
  2. Arrange the lettuce leaves like small bowls on a serving platter or on individual plates, and divide the salad evenly among the lettuce cups.
  3. Top with a scattering of green peas and peanuts, and, if they're available, some sliced snow peas.
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