Hye Thyme Cafe: Vegan Lentil Lettuce Wraps - Marx Foods Recipe Challenge

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Vegan Lentil Lettuce Wraps - Marx Foods Recipe Challenge

It's Easy Being Green - Marx Foods Recipe Challenge Logo

It's official, the polls are open ... 

The polls will close at 11:30pm PST on Thursday 2/14/2013, so make sure you vote before the deadline. On Friday, 2/15 we will announce the two winners, one from this public poll and the second from our internal vote. Each of the winning bloggers will receive a $100 credit to MarxFoods.com.

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It's time for another Marx Foods recipe challenge!  This time around, the theme is "It's Easy Being Green," and participants were tasked with creating a recipe using at least two of the five ingredients provided.  The ingredients we received were:

  • Bamboo Rice
  • Dill Pollen
  • Green Eston Lentils
  • Whole Cardamom
  • Mint Herb Crystals

Having played around with puffing wild rice in a previous challenge, I wanted to try taking it a step further this time by turning the rice into noodles and puffing those to go along with a filling for lettuce wraps, with the lentils serving as the "meat."  Sadly, although I was able to mill the rice into flour to make the noodles, when I tried to fry them, they didn't puff up like I was expecting and instead turned into crunchy rice sticks.  Fortunately, I had the forethought to only use half of my rice sample, so I switched gears and puffed the other half in their original state - better small crunchies in your lettuce wraps than none at all. 

I incorporated a third ingredient by stewing dried apricots with the cardamom to serve as another texture and act as a bit of a sauce. 

½ c bamboo rice 
canola oil 
20 dried apricots 
8 whole Green Cardamom pods 
2 t soy sauce 
1 t sriracha 
2 t fresh lemon juice 
1 c Green Eston Lentils 
½ c sliced scallion 
¼ c sweet red onion, diced 
3 oz water chestnuts, diced 
lettuce leaves (I used iceberg) 

Because bamboo rice is short-grained, it's too small to fish out of a pot with a spider or slotted spoon, so you will want to prepare by having a metal strainer fitted over a pot or other heat-resistant vessel.  Heat about ¼" of oil over high heat in a small pan - it doesn't need to be deep for this.  The oil should be hot enough when you see it starting to ripple a bit.  Pour in the rice, and it will puff up in just a few seconds.  Pour it into the strainer so that the rice ends up in the strainer and the hot oil in the pot below, then pour the rice out onto paper towels to absorb any excess oil and set aside. 

Puffed Bamboo Rice
Rinsed bamboo rice - lost some of its color

Before it's cooked, the bamboo rice is a light jade color.  It lightens significantly when cooked, but it still has a light green hue to it.

Simmer the apricots and cardamom in 2c water until tender. Using the back of a spoon, lightly mash the apricots and crush 3 or 4 of the cardamom pods, releasing their seeds into the mixture.  Remove the remaining pods.   Stir in the soy sauce and sriracha, ending with the lemon juice for a hit of acid [no pun intended] to cut through the sweetness of the apricots and add a bright note. 

Apricots stewed with cardamom
Apricots and Cardamom Pods

Boil the lentils with a bit of salt to your preferred tenderness.  Drain and return them to the pot, and gently stir in the apricot mixture until well coated.  Add the scallions, peppers, and water chestnuts. 

Lentil filling for Vegan Lettuce Wraps
Boiled Green Eston Lentils

Spoon the mixture into lettuce leaves and sprinkle with the puffed rice.

Vegan Lentil Lettuce Wraps

Vegan Lentil Lettuce WrapsVegan Lentil Lettuce Wraps

Vegan Lentil Lettuce Wraps

Although I was disappointed about not being able to puff the rice noodles like I had intended, I really enjoyed this dish. From a flavor standpoint, you first taste the lentils and scallions, then get the sweet/flowery combination of the apricot and cardamom, followed by the hint of heat from the sriracha and the lingering earthiness of the soy sauce. As for textures, you have the soft, slightly chewy texture of the apricot, the meatiness of the lentils and the two different levels of crisp from the water chestnuts and puffed rice. 

I'm not a fan of drippy lettuce wraps, so I don't like using a sauce or dipping them.  If you prefer a saucier version, you could increase the apricot mixture, incorporate the stated amount into the lentils, then increase the liquid (water and/or soy sauce) in the remaining apricot mixture and cook that down to a sauce. 

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As for what happened with my noodle attempt, I had read in several places one option that required soaking the rice overnight, adding water and blending the mixture into a thin batter, then steaming it sort of crepe style, first oiling the pan, then adding a layer of batter, more oil once set, followed by another layer, more oil, and cutting into strips.  

Elsewhere, I read that you could rinse and briefly soak the rice then use a blender or food processor to grind it into a powder, sifting it through a strainer to catch any larger pieces and processing them again.  Then you were to add an equal amount of water and knead it into a pasty dough.  Then roll out the dough and slice into noodles - or thin strips and roll it into spaghetti styles noodles.  I opted for the second method, but there was no way I thought it would be possible to run rice through a food processor or blender to make a flour out of it!  A spice grinder on the other hand ...

Bamboo Rice Flour

Fortunately, I did NOT pour the equal amount of water into the flour as noted!  To my half cup of powdered rice, I added 2-3T of water, and even that was too much!  It was very thin and runny, so I zapped it in the microwave for 20 seconds.  I stirred it into what looked vaguely like mashed potatoes and was then able to knead it into a fairly smooth dough.  Rather than rolling it out, slicing strips and then rolling them, I just pinched off small pieces and rolled them out with my fingertips.

Bamboo Rice Flour mixed with water

Dried bamboo rice noodles
Bamboo rice dough for rice noodles

Rather than puffing up like the rice, the noodles just browned in the oil. That said, I wouldn't hesitate to try this again, rolling it out very thin, slicing it into squares and frying up some rice crackers - then maybe spritz on some sort of soy sauce glaze.

Puffed bamboo rice and bamboo rice noodles

As always, a big thanks to the folks at Marx Foods for providing me with new samples to play with!  The polls go live on Mon or Tues, so be sure to check out the other entries and vote for your favorite ... which of course will hopefully be this one. 

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UPDATE:  Had the leftover lentil mixture cold out of the fridge on Ritz Crackers for lunch today - Yummmm!


  1. love the apricot element in the final dish! too bad the noodles didn't pan out, but it's definitely an idea worth trying again :)

    1. I'm thinking I might have let them dry for too long first. Might give it another stab with the steamer method. :)

  2. I've been enjoying perusing your site today. The pictures are really well-done (unlike a lot of cooking/food blogs!) and there are so many fabulous recipes I can't wait to try. And don't even get me started on the cookbook reviews. I kind of have a cookbook addiction. I'll be checking in often for cooking inspiration!

    1. It's funny that you comment on the photos because although I think I have a few good shots here and there, for the most part, not so much! I don't have a fancy camera and don't use a light box or anything light that. Whatever it is it is so to speak. Thanks for stopping in, and I hope you come back often! :)

  3. Thanks for share this awesome food recipe....

    1. Thank YOU for stopping by ... AND for thinking it's awesome! :)


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