Raw Vegan Asian Lettuce Wraps

First things first: I’m sorry if I had you all craving chocolate at your desks yesterday!

Any top chef fans out there? Though my loyalty to the show wavered significantly when they awarded the title to season 5’s aging frat boy, Hosea, I’m still a devoted fan. I’ve actually been enjoying this season. I’m rooting for Angelo. Why? Because he’s arrogant, and arrogant cheftestants are by far the most fun to watch. I still miss Stefan like crazy.

A cheftestant who I didn’t much like was season 3’s Sara: I thought she was whiney and childish. But if I’m correct, she did make a cool “upscale barbecue” dish at the start of the season, which was really just a spin on a familiar favorite: grilled beef lettuce wraps. (To be fair, I’m sure that I’m ignorant of the nuances of this dish, and that there are many varieties out there that I’m not aware of. So perhaps grilled beef lettuce wraps aren’t really the same as what Sara made. But work with me here.)

If you google “Asian lettuce wraps,” you’ll get a whole lot of recipes that look vaguely similar. They all involve lettuce cups (obviously), and most of them also involve a layer of rice, a layer of cucumbers, and a layer of beef–either ground beef, or grilled beef strips. This is one of the many dishes I discovered post-veganism, so I’ve never actually tried the original version, but I have to say that, if we can somehow ignore the whole beef thing for a moment, these guys look like my cup of tea. They’re simple, tasty, semi-raw, and feature clean ingredients and flavors. All of my favorite thigns.

So, when I found myself with some jicama on hand a few nights ago — jicama being the vegetable I most enjoy using as a raw “rice” base — I thought, wouldn’t it be easy to rawify and veganize Asian lettuce wraps? All that needs to go is the beef, really; these can be made with jicama “rice,” but regular rice would work nicely, too.

Here’s the dinner that resulted from this little moment of brainstorming. It was one of my favorite raw entrees of the past few weeks: a little sweet, a little spicy, and easy to make, if you put aside 8 hours of time to marinade your vegetables. It would also be a fun dish to serve with company: if you doubled the quantity, everyone could enjoy the process of assembling their wraps, and you could definitely add to or vary the toppings. Sky’s the limit!

Raw Vegan Asian Lettuce Wraps (makes 4 wraps, and serves about 2)

For the marinated cucumbers:

1 small cucumber, very thinly sliced
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp agave syrup
1 tsp nama shoyu or tamari
1 tsp sesame oil
Healthy dash red pepper flakes

Mix all liquid ingredients with the cucumber and add red pepper to taste. Let marinate for at least 8 hours. When you’re ready to use them, they’ll look like this:

For the portobello “beef”:

1 extra large portobello mushroom, or two small, sliced into strips
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp nama shoyu or tamari
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 clove garlic, minced (if you like! I don’t like, but lots of people do)

Combine all iquid ingredients and garlic if you’re using it, and submerge the mushroom strips into the marinade. Let sit in the fridge overnight or for eight hours, flipping the mushroom once or twice.

For the “rice”:

1 medium/large jicama, peeled and cubed
1.5 tbsp mirin. If you don’t have mirin or can’t afford it, use 2 tsp agave syrup instead
1.5 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1) Chop jicama in a food processor till it resembles “rice.” Remove it, and squeeze it through a nut milk bag, cheesecloth, or simply some paper towels to release a lot of excess moisture.

See? I just used paper towels. When you’re done, it should be relatively dry and crumbly.

2) Mix jicama “rice” with mirin and rice vinegar. If you think it needs salt, add a dash or tamari or nama shoyu.

For the wraps:

4 large butter lettuce leaves

To assemble the wraps:

1. Prepare the marinated cucumbers and portobello, and let sit overnight (or for eight hours) in the fridge.

2. Prepare the jicama “rice.”

3. Before you’re ready to eat, lay out the butter lettuce leaves. Top your first with some of the jicama rice, some of the cucumber (you’ll obviously want to remove them from the marinade!), and then a few strips of the mushroom (ditto!). Repeat with the three remaining lettuce leaves, and add any leftover fillings to the others, so that you have four fully loaded wraps. Enjoy!

See how cool they are?

A perfect, flavorful bite.

To go along with my wraps, I threw together a simple summer salad: 1/2 cup of garbanzos, 1/3 cup cucumbers, sea salt, lemon, fresh dill, olive oil, and 1/2 cup of the best cherry tomatoes I’ve ever eaten–no joke!–fresh from the farmer’s market:


This salad almost vied with the wraps for the starring role in my dinner. But in the end, the wraps won:

What a fresh, easy meal! And perfect for this week long heat wave we’ve had.

Hope you guys are interested in giving this dish a shot. As I said, you could absolutely use a cooked grain if you don’t have a processor to make the jicama “rice,” and you can use any number of sauces, marinades, or veggie toppings with it. As with all of my favorite meal ideas, this isn’t a recipe so much as it is a template for you to run with.

I’m pleased to say that, as of last night, my internet is back up and running. I’m even happier to say that, at this time tomorrow, I will be wandering the streets of San Francisco!

A few words about the genesis of this trip: as you all know, I have a best friend. Her name is Chloe. Chloe and her husband, Knud, live in New Orleans. This is sometimes cool, because I get to visit The Big Easy, but most of the time it’s rather sucky, because I miss having Chloe nearby. Whenever she and I have a chance to hang out, I grab it. Chloe and Knud were supposed to come to NYC for Labor Day, but they realized that tickets to San Francisco were even cheaper, so they booked a weekend there. When I learned about this change in plans, there was only one thing to do: follow them.

This will be my first trip ever to the west coast (east coaster that I am, I’ve never been further west than Chicago), so I’m very excited. Most of all, I’m excited to eat at some of San Fran’s amazing vegan restaurants, to visit its markets, to hang with my favorite girl crush, and to hug Chloe so often that she wants to strangle me by the time we leave. (Get excited, bun.) Some of you have asked if I’m planning a blogger meetup: to be honest, this is such a short weekend (2 full days, 2 travel days), that I really want to devote most of my time to being with Chloe and Knud. But I do have plans with some friends who I’ve made through blogging, and vegan dining aplenty is of course on my agenda. Get ready for some serious food porn!

I’ll check in tomorrow, then, from The City by the Bay. Have a great afternoon!


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Categories: Vegan Basics
Ingredients: Chickpeas
Dietary Preferences: Gluten Free, Raw

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  1. Hi!
    I’m new to raw food……
    How do you prepare raw chickpeas??
    This looks amazing–thank you!!

  2. Just had 3 wraps, they were delicious.

    Easy to make too.

    Thank you so much for the recipe and the pics.

  3. these were so delicious!!
    i didn’t have a food processor so just finely chopped the jicama.
    definitely making these again very soon!

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This recipe has been tugging at me for a few days now but I’ve been out of rice wine vinegar. Today I picked some up on the way home from work and I made the wraps for dinner. Whoa Nelly! Asian wraps have been a favorite of mine for years although I’ve been high raw vegan now for almost 2 years. The jicama rice rocked! Everything together was so good. I think that’s the sign of a really great recipe when the sum of all parts creates a delicious result and that’s what this was like. I ate the whole batch! Funny, I forgot you had chickpeas on the side and my husband, without knowing, made a bowl of spicy chickpeas for his side dish! 🙂 You have a true talent creating recipes – your food is really tasty.

  5. that looks so delicious! i will most definitely be attempting it soon 🙂 thanks, gena!

    have fun in san francisco — it’s my city and near and dear to my heart. it’s pretty amazing. check out cafe gratitude (it’s vegan and raw and my favorite restaurant!!)!

  6. Re: Top Chef – 100% agree about the appeal of the Angelos and Stefans of the show. Absolutely the most fun to watch! Such ‘tudes!

    The meal looks fantastic. I’d love to try jicima rice.

    Have a beautiful and amazing time in San Francisco! That city is so in touch with the local/vegetarian/vegan/raw food cultures I’m sure you’ll love it.

  7. NEVER been to San Fran or the west coast? Dang! You are gonna love it. Of course, you live in one of the most amazing places in the world, so why would you need to go elsewhere? I hope you get to go to Cafe Gratitude and review it for all of us raw foodies.

    I am a huge fan of Top Chef and it is weird because I’m vegan but you get how it can still appeal even so. Remember the raw vegan jicama wraps? I think Richard made them. I thought there was gonna be a spoiler in your post. So I quick watched last night’s episode. Thanks for no spoilers anyhow.

    And for some reason I dislike jicama rice. So I’d just make the rest and enjoy it like that. I love mushrooms, especially portabellas.

  8. Ooooohhhhhh lettuce wraps:):) Delish!!!!! I havent had any in awhile so they should be in the menu for the weekend:):) have a great trip!

  9. Have a safe trip!! And have a blast with Chloe. You will love the west coast ; )

    And this recipe looks amazing…I really want those mushrooms!!

  10. oh i LOVE top chef. i watch it on demand so i can skip over the commericals 😉 how’s the jicama digest raw? i usually steam my cauliflower “rice” because raw cauli gives me a bloat

  11. Have SO MUCH fun, travel safely, and eat well! Hopefully, next time, Chloe and Knud will choose L.A. as their vacation spot. 😉

  12. Yum, jicama rice!! Cauliflower rice’s long lost twin. Don’t tell cauli, but jicama was always my favorite 🙂
    The recipe looks fantastic!
    And, I meant to comment on your Woody Allen/Manhattan post earlier…but I love that movie too!! I just love Woody Allen in general. Have you seen Whatever Works with Larry David?? I think you would like it!

  13. “I will be wandering the streets of San Francisco!”–Ok since you havent been to SF, you may want to rephrase that. LOL. I have a hysterical memory of a (drunken) night in SF about 7 years or so ago. There was a lady of the evening walking around about 3am and we were stopped in our car at a crosswalk. She was eating a huge slice of pizza and clearly intoxicated. She tripped on her super high heels, in the crosswalk right in front of us as we were waitting for the red light to change, the pizza went flying, her wig came off and she was on the ground. She put her wig back on, dusted off the filthy pizza, took a huge bite, and just kept walking. Oh, the memories! You will have a GREAT Trip!!!!

    Seeing Chloe and I know you are this hardcore NY’er, but…but I kinda think you will fall in love with the entire vibe of Nor Cal and the Bay Area! If it wasnt as cold, that’s where I’d live.

    Now onto this food, it looks amazing!!!!! I have never marinated porto’s, I need to! And cauli rice, or jicama rice, another thing I’ve never done, I know, what kind of raw foodie am I. Lol. Your whole recipe/feast in this post looks divine!! This is MY kinda food…omg, yum!

    Have a freakin ball up there..you are going to just adore it! And of course, cherish your time w/ your Bff!!



  14. Gena, welcome to the west coast! I love the east coast but my heart is definitely out here. And San Fran is just about my favorite city anywhere! I think you’ll love the wholesome and alternative feel of the city, even if just as a refreshing change of pace from your favorite city 🙂 Hope you find some amazing food!

  15. These look delicious. I’ve got some ‘bella mushrooms sitting in my fridge, and I’ve been wondering what to do with them.

    Have a fantastic time in SF. I grew up there (lived there from the age of 3 until 18), and while I love my new Canadian home (Vancouver, BC, I’ve stuck to the West Coast), I still DEARLY miss my home-city. Have a fantastic time!

  16. Ahhhh I hope I run into you! I’ll case out the vegan restaurants because I know that’s where you’ll be hiding.

    You are going to love the West Coast! Make sure to pack light sweaters/layers because once the sun goes down, it gets much chillier, which a lot of tourists don’t realize. It’s very desert-like weather – warm in the sun and cooler when it goes down.

    • Thanks LC! I’m packing a hoodie, a pleather jacket, boots, a sweater, and a scarf. I hope that’ll be ok!

      And I will be at Gracias Madre, Cafe Gratitude, and Milennium on various evenings. If you see me, say hello!