So pretty and so tasty. I love the Thai-inspired delights in a little lettuce cup. There’s strong savory flavors from the pork, tamari and fish sauce, brightened by a stack of crispy raw vegetables and a punch of tangy, refreshing lime—delivered by a light sauce with fresh lime juice and by eating the small segments of lime inside the lettuce cups, peel and all. Morsels of lime and toasted coconut are borrowed from miang-kam, which happens to be the perfect blend of salty, savory, sweet, sour and pungent; do try the Thai snack food if you’d like to experience perfect food harmony. My simple version of lettuce cups are not so perfect, or Thai, and a little messy to eat, but that’s fun, as long as you have napkins. It was easy for me to whip this up when I didn’t have a concrete plan for cooking. I tend to have most of these ingredients at home, like ground meat in the freezer, a variety of seasonal veggies, plus nuts and coconut. Tamari and fish sauce belong in a well-stocked kitchen. Really and truly, fish sauce is awesome. Have no fear. Make your own fermented condiment or purchase this unsweetened variety of fish sauce. Coconut aminos are a milder but distinctive alternative to tamari for anyone sensitive to soy. Tamari is one of the few soy products I use, along with miso. Like fish sauce, they are naturally fermented condiments, containing enzymes and minerals, minus the issues associated with unfermented soy products that you’d want to avoid.
You can toast the cashews and coconut separately in either of two ways: spread out on a pan in a 350°F oven for 5-10 minutes or until golden, stirring once during cooking, or you can quickly and attentively toast them in a skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently until just golden and fragrant.
The most consuming part of the recipe is cutting the vegetables to make them look pretty. The extra time I took in cutting and slicing contributes to the aesthetic of the layered, colorful cups and offers a zen-like experience of conscientious, matchsticked carrots for anyone with such patience and presence of mind. But, if I was in a hurry, I wouldn’t have any qualms about grating the vegetables and roughly chopping the green onions. Whether or not you pride yourself on delicate knife cuts, this recipe can work for you. I also suggest listening to Broken Social Scene’s Forgiveness Rock Record while cooking. It seemed to improve my skills.