Thai Chicken Lettuce Cups

Food for Thought by Chef Katie Chin, For recipes, visit

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I thought I’d share this fun and out-of-the-ordinary Thai Chicken Lettuce Cup recipe to make the night before the holiday when you may be entertaining out-of-town guests. I know holidays can be difficult when you’re going through a divorce. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and it felt weird to be on my own as I usually celebrated with my ex’s family. I decided to take matters into my own hands and invited some local LA friends (some of whom were also going through a divorce) and a couple of out-of-towners. It felt good to have a ton of support around me even though it was a lot of work. If you’re in a similar frame of mind, try this recipe which came to my rescue because it’s so easy — they’re kind of like Thai Tacos which means your guests have to assemble the dish themselves which means less work for you!

Thai Chicken Lettuce Cups



  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar or white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 1 fresh hot red or green pepper, preferably Thai, deseeded and finely sliced


  • 2 tablespoons high-heat cooking oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced galangal or fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup canned chopped water chestnuts, drained
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion (white and green parts)
  • 1 tablespoon minced lemongrass
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 large butter lettuce leaves


  1. Make the sauce: Bring sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cool slightly. Mix ¼ cup of the syrup with the ginger, lime juice, vinegar, fish sauce and chili in a small bowl. Transfer to a small serving bowl. Discard remaining syrup.
  2. Make the filling: Heat oil in a wok or skillet on medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic; stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add ground chicken and stir-fry for 4 minutes. Add water chestnuts and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
  3. Add cilantro, green onion, lemongrass, fish sauce, crushed red pepper and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Dish out and transfer to a serving bowl.
  4. Serve chicken mixture with lettuce leaves and ginger lime dipping sauce, allowing guests to form their own wraps.

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