Recipe Hacks

Did you ever eat something at a restaurant and wish you could duplicate it at home? Did you know that there are websites dedicated to developing recipes that closely mimic restaurant recipes? Lucky for us, there are some very creative cooks out there with superior palates who have been able decipher the ingredients and cooking techniques for many popular restaurant dishes. Their websites “hack” some of the most popular restaurant dishes around so that you can make them at home!

My re-creation of the lettuce wraps “special sauce” at P. F. Chang’s.

Here are a few sites to get you started:

https://www.brit.co/famous-restaurant-recipes-dupes-hacks/

https://www.buzzfeed.com/jessicamisener/copycat-recipes-for-your-favorite-chain-restaurant-foods?utm_term=.wxDQaNLjja#.fnXmw2BRRw

http://www.food.com/ideas/copycat-recipes-6576?c=514595

If you don’t find the recipe for your favorite restaurant dish on any of these websites, try typing in the name of the restaurant and the dish you’d like to duplicate. Then add the words “hack” or “copy cat” to the search. As long as it’s a well-known restaurant, you should get several results.


For example, I adore the chicken lettuce wraps at P. F. Chang’s and wanted to see if I could recreate them at home. I did a search for the recipe for P. F. Chang’s chicken lettuce wraps. Lots of results came up, but the one I decided to make can be found here.

I was able to find all the ingredients I needed for my P.F. Chang’s lettuce wraps at a regular grocery store.
Having made this dish a few times before, I deviated from the recipe slightly. I have found that chopping the chicken into small pieces is much easier if you do it when the chicken is half frozen. The firmer texture makes it easy to slice thinly and then chop into small pieces. (The recipe recommends pan frying the breasts whole first and then chopping.)
I cooked small batches of the chicken in my wok. As each batch cooked, I moved the cooked pieces higher up on the edge of the wok. The heat in a wok is most concentrated at the bottom and this technique keeps the cooked pieces from overcooking.

The verdict? My chicken lettuce wraps were salty, crunchy, fresh and sweet with the same hint of smokiness that the restaurant version has. The special sauce had the same taste and texture as the restaurant version. In fact, if tasted side by side with P. F. Chang’s version, I’m not sure I would be able to tell the difference!

Deep frying the mai fun rice noodles in oil is the messiest part of the recipe–but it is also the most fun. Once the oil is the right temperature, the noodles almost immediately will puff up and rise to the top of the oil. Test by placing a single noodle in the oil before adding a larger quantity.
It takes only a few seconds to cook the rice noodles. Scoop them out of the oil with a spider immediately after they puff up and place on a paper towel to drain.

I will say that I don’t think P. F. Chang’s has anything to worry about. This was not a simple dish to make. The amount of time, specialized ingredients, number of steps, and the overall mess involved in making this particular dish prevents me from making it often. I will continue to visit the restaurant for it most of the time, but it is nice to know that if I want to make it at home, I can reproduce the restaurant version pretty well.

What’s your favorite restaurant dish? Can you hack it?

6 thoughts on “Recipe Hacks

  1. You know, I’ve looked up several recipe hacks and they are never easy. LoL … I think as a rule of thumb they make it complicated so we can’t hack it. ^_^

    That looks yummy, though! Oh, and you’re absolutely right to chop the half-thawed meat first. This is an Asian dish, and most Asian cooking methods work with sliced or chopped raw meats because they fry more quickly and can be set aside as the stir-fry progresses through other chopped things that fry quickly, and then everything is put back in. Asian food starts off chopped because it is eaten with hashi (chopsticks). There are no knives served with meals. So, everything must be bite-sized when served. And everything is usually cooked quickly to get that crispy-tender texture. 🙂 Large-chunk meat cooking is definitely European, not Asian.

    1. This recipe really is a dead-ringer for the P.F. Chang’s version. Unfortunately I’ve never been good at using chopsticks–I’m just too impatient! But it is nice to have the food chopped in small pieces regardless of the tool used to eat it.

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