Toasted Coconut & Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Toasted Coconut & Chicken Lettuce Wraps recipe by

What were you up to one year ago?  Just thinking about it makes you realize how fast time flies, doesn’t it?  Last May, I was probably walking to the Kuantan morning market in Penang, shopping for all the wonderful tropical fruits that are in season this time of year like rambutan, durian, and langsat.  On my way home, I most likely stopped by my favorite coconut shop – Joez Coconut – to pick up freshly grated coconut flakes for making a Nyonya Kerabu Bee Hoon Salad.

A year later, I’m in Minnesota enjoying our first 90 degree day of spring, dreaming of the foods I miss from home.  I may not be able to replicate those same dishes now, but I think I have even more fun cooking – and eating – the many Southeast Asian inspired dishes I’m challenged to create with the limited tropical ingredients I have available here in Minnesota.

One of those Southeast Asian inspired dishes is this summer recipe of Toasted Coconut & Chicken Lettuce Wraps.

How to toast coconut flakes
tropical asian inspired recipe of coconut and chicken lettuce wraps

A popular ingredient in Southeast Asian style salads is freshly grated coconut, which is often toasted until lightly brown and fragrant.  Without a Joez Coconut Shop around the corner, I’ve found the best alternative here in the US is unsweetened coconut flakes.  They’re not as aromatic, but they keep well.  Simply toast them on the stove, mix them with thinly sliced shallots, bright cilantro, and shredded chicken, and you have the base for a delicious tropical salad, or in this case, a tropical style lettuce wrap.

To add some smoky spiciness and a hint of warming citrus flavor to this Toasted Coconut & Chicken Lettuce Wrap, I also included a few dashes each of our Smoked Serrano Chili Powder and Lemongrass Powder.

Toasted coconut & chicken lettuce wraps by

The only missing item is a fruit.  Fresh mango or green papaya would be great for enhancing the flavor of this Toasted Coconut & Chicken Lettuce Wrap, but I opted this time for a creamy, rich avocado. 

Simply add the avocado and coconut-chicken mix on top of a large lettuce leaf, squeeze a lime wedge over everything, and enjoy this light, flavorful wrap as a fun, party appetizer, or as a family meal on a warm Saturday in the summer, with glasses of fresh watermelon juice to wash it down.

Toasted Coconut and Chicken Lettuce Wraps by

Shop lemon grass powder, kaffir lime leaf powder and galangal powder from season with spice shop

Toasted Coconut & Chicken Lettuce Wraps 
by Season with Spice
Serves 5-6 as an appetizer or 2-3 as main course

2 chicken breasts (about 1lb)
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut flakes
1 large shallot – thinly sliced
1 tsp of Season with Spice’s Smoked Serrano Chili Powder
1/2 tsp of Season with Spice’s Lemongrass Powder (optional)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves – roughly chopped
Dashes of salt, to taste
1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, or coconut oil
Squeeze of fresh lime juice
1/2 head of iceberg lettuce or butter lettuce – whole leaves separated to create wraps
1 avocado – diced (or try diced mango)
 Lime wedges

1. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the chicken breasts, lower heat to simmer, cover the pot, and cook for about 15-20 minutes. When the chicken is done – drain water, allow meat to cool, and pull into thin strips.
2. While the chicken is cooking in Step 1, take out coconut flakes and a small, non-stick skillet. Place the coconut flakes in the skillet, and toast over low heat until lightly brown & fragrant. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine shredded chicken pieces with shallots, 2/3 of the toasted coconut flakes, cilantro, smoked serrano chili powder, and lemongrass powder (optional). Season to taste with salt. Add lime juice & oil, and mix well.

To assemble:
Place the coconut-chicken salad mix on the lettuce wrap. Top with diced avocado or mango and some more coconut flakes, and squeeze lime juice over. Best served in separate bowls so everyone – whether it’s a family dinner or a summer party – can assemble their own wraps.