Take-IN Chinese food

chicken soong

I guess my cooking goes in phases – all Mediterranean, lots of Asian or South Asian or just plain, delicious comfort food. I have recently been looking through old recipes and came across one that I always loved and which somehow fell off of my food rotation. It’s called Chicken Soong and is Chinese lettuce-wrapped ground chicken. The recipe is hand-written and is probably at least 35 years old based on the note paper I found it on. I have no recollection of where I got the recipe, but I have no trouble recalling that I really liked this dish. I will serve it alongside a comforting beef, mushroom and broccoli dish over rice. It’s possible that 35 years ago, I might have made several other dishes alongside it, but I’m a little more realistic in my expectations now.

The prep could all be done the night before so when you get home from work or school or soccer practice, all you have to do is cook up your rice and throw the ingredients in the wok. The prep for two dishes takes about an hour. Perhaps if I were a faster chopper or more used to making Asian food, it could be done more quickly. The result is delicious and satisfying in under an hour – sort of. And the bonus is that if you have any of the lettuce wraps left-over, they make a wonderful lunch the next day.

Chicken Soong

Yield: This will not be satisfying as a dinner on its own. Combined with another dish like the one below, this will easily serve 6 people. If you make two more dishes, it could easily satsify 8 people unless you are feeding teenage boys – then all bets are off!


10-12 lettuce leaves from either iceberg or leaf lettuce

1 pound ground chicken (I like the chicken to be a mix of white and dark meat so it isn’t so dry)

1 egg white (save the yolk for an omelette or baking pastry)

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1-2 jalapeno chilis, cored and shredded/sliced (Know how much heat you like in your food; you can always substitute 1/2 cup thinly sliced sweet peppers)


10-12 water chestnuts, thinly sliced, then diced

1/2 cup finely diced celery  finely diced celery

1/4 cup finely diced carrots (about 1 medium carrot)

1 rounded teaspoon finely chopped ginger (you can buy it in jars in the produce section to save time)

3-4 scallions, finely chopped

2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic (you can buy this in the produce section also to save time)

3/4 cup oil (Canola or Peanut are good here)

For sauce:

2 Tablespoons dry Sherry

1/2 Tablespoon low sodium soy sauce

1/2 Tablespoon chili paste with garlic (harissa or Gochujang can be substituted)

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil (You must use the toasted Asian sesame oil)

1 Tablespoon cornstarch combined with 1 Tablespoon water


  1. Add egg white, salt and 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch to ground chicken and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  2. Combine the celery, carrots, water chestnuts and peppers with ginger. Set asidecarrot celery water chestnut mix
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the scallion and garlic and set to the side.
  4. Combine the ingredients for the sauce except for the cornstarch and water
  5. In a separate dish combine the cornstarch and water and whisk with a fork or chopstick to make sure that it is well combined and there are no clumps
  6. Heat 3/4 cup of oil in a wok or deep skillet. Make sure that the oil is very hot before putting in the chicken so it doesn’t absorb the oil. Add the chicken, breaking up the pieces and stirring constantly for about 1.5 minutes. Drain over a strainer and set aside.drained chicken
  7. Return 2 Tablespoons of the oil to the wok and add the celery mixture. After 30 seconds, add the scallion and garlic. After 10 seconds, add the chicken and cook for 30 more seconds.chicken soong in motion
  8. Add sauce mixture with 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil (if you like it HOT, you can use the sesame oil with hot peppers). Cook for 30 seconds and then add the cornstarch mixture. Mix through and immediately turn off the heat.
  9. Arrange lettuce leaves on a platter and the filling in a bowl on the side. Everyone can take a tablespoon of the filling and roll it into a lettuce wrap.

beef and broccoli plated

Beef with Broccoli and Mushrooms

Yield: 4 – 6 servings with anothe rdish like the one above


10 ounces flat-iron steak thinly sliced against the grain (You can use flank steak but it will cost you about 2-3 times more and it really isn’t worth it)

3 cups broccoli florets, separated, with any stems, trimmed and sliced thinly on an angle

1 small yellow onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced

About 4 ounces of mushrooms sliced (any kind will do so it is based on preference and budget)

About 2 Tablespoons of oil, preferably peanut oil divided

2 Tablespoons of water

For the meat

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

2 Tablespoons dry sherry

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon  sugar

For the sauce

2 Tablespoons dry sherry

2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 Tablespoon oyster sauce

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil for garnish


  1. Comine the ingredients for the meat in a bowl or heavy-duty plastic ziploc bag and refrigerate until ready to use. This can even be done the night before.
  2. When ready to cook, add 1 Tablespoons of the peanut oil to a hot wok. Pour the oil down the side of the wok, not into the center where it could easily splash you and burn. Add the meat, separating the pieces and moving them around until mostly cooked through. This only takes a couple of minutes.
  3. Carefully remove the cooked meat to a clean bowl and set nearby.
  4. Add 1 more Tablespoon of the remaining peanut oil to the hot wok and then add the onions. Stir for about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the broccoli and mushrooms together and stir for 3 minutes.broccoli and mushrooms
  6. Then add back the meat and stir through. Add 2 Tablespoons of water. Cover the wok and cook for 3 minutes.
  7. Mix the sauce together so that all of the cornstarch is distributed and absorbed into the liquid. Uncover the wok, push the meat and veggies to the side a bit and carefully pour the sauce into the center of the pan. Immediately stir everything well to distribute the sauce and turn off the heat. The sauce will continue to thicken so do not leave the heat on.
  8. Serve over the rice of your choice. I’m usung brown rice tonight. Just be sure that your rice is cooked BEFORE beginning everything else.

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