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Let us Wrap (or not): Hoisin Chicken

2010 March 4

Asian flavors are just not something I have ever been that into cooking. Sure, I like eating them. Out. Or at someone else’s house. Or anywhere I don’t have to buy and ultimately store 8 specialty ingredients I won’t use again for months. Hosin sauce is something of an exception.

It’s great on a variety of things, even when the dish is not necessarily Asian-themed, especially poultry (especially especially duck). It doesn’t tend to languish in The Kitchenette’s ‘fridge any longer than barbecue sauce or maple syrup. If you buy some specifically for this recipe, I highly recommend taking it for a spin in other dishes.

Alternatively, you could just make a boatload of this stuff. Heh.

This recipe was somewhat inspired by a spectacular squab lettuce wrap I had at the Inn at Little Washington. With Virginia peanuts and local birds, it was a memorable, locavore take on an Asian dish; I kind of think of this The Kitchenette’s take on their take.

Whenever I make it, I am reminded of the first time I made it for someone else — the first time I felt this recipe was ready for Prime Time. My pal J the Bicyclist* (and his voracious appetite) had biked over for a pre-dancing dinner on the fabulous roof deck of my then-apartment. We tried to wrap it in lettuce, really we did. But J the Bicyclist and I found this too tedious and cumbersome when all we really wanted to do was shovel the deliciousness directly into our mouths with spoons. The wrapping was abandoned and shovel we did.

Since then I have found that tender endive leaves make decent and less labor-intensive boat for the chicken mixture. They also add a “green-ness” I think it needs, plus an exciting layer of texture on top of the gentle crunch of the water chestnuts, the chewiness of the shiitakes and the sharpness of the peanuts.

But serving it over rice with a spoon for shoveling works just as well, too.

The variety of serving options is part of this dish’s enduring appeal. Don’t feel like making rice? No worries. Want to stir in mountains of peanuts instead of sprinkling them on top? Go for it. This is just my version; make it your own and shovel it on in.

*J the Bicyclist is the same friend who gifted me that nifty spoon rest that appears in many a Kitchenette photo.

Hoisin Chicken

Serves 2


2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (or fancy flavored stir-fry oil, if you have it)
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 scallions, sliced and divided
1 lb chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized (or smaller) pieces
1 (8-oz) can sliced water chestnuts, rinsed and diced
8 oz shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and diced
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped (optional, for garnish)
jasmine rice (optional, for serving)
broad, flat red and green lettuce OR endive leaves (optional, for serving)


Heat a wok or a heavy 12-inch skillet over high heat and add the oil. Add ginger, salt and half the scallions, stir-frying until ginger is fragrant, about one minute.

Add chicken and stir-fry until just cooked through, about 2 minutes.

Add water chestnuts, mushrooms, hoisin sauce, Worcestershire sauce and vinegar and stir-fry for another 2 minutes, just enough to cook the mushrooms though.

Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with peanuts and remaining scallions. Spoon chicken mixture into lettuce leaves and wrap, into endive leaves or pour over rice.

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