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Thai Lettuce Cups with Minced Pork, Crisp Vegetables & Toasted Coconut

May 03 2013

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.

 

3_PorkLettuceCups

 

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.

 

1_PorkLettuceCups

by Adrienne Lee
Skill Level Moderate
Cook Time Medium < 1hr
Serves 4
Thai Lettuce Cups with Minced Pork, Crisp Vegetables & Toasted Coconut

Thai Lettuce Cups with Minced Pork, Crisp Vegetables & Toasted Coconut

Fresh, fragrant, and pretty lettuce cups are composed of seasoned ground pork, layers of raw summer vegetables and flavorful toppings with a Thai inspiration. Practice traditional knife cuts with precision or make it an even quicker recipe by grating the vegetables. With this much flavor, texture, and color, you’re also getting a great variety of nutrients from your summertime dish.

Ingredients

  • ¾ pound ground pasture-raised pork
  • 3 green onions, white & light green parts chopped & dark green parts sliced into thin 2-inch ribbons
  • 2 teaspoons tamari or coconut aminos
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • ½ lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened fish sauce
  • ½ teaspoons coconut palm sugar or honey
  • 1 teaspoon tamari or coconut aminos
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 cucumber, peeled & seeded, julienned in thin 2- inch strips
  • 2 carrots, peeled, cut into 2-inch matchstick-sized strips
  • 3 radishes, scrubbed & sliced into thin half-moons
  • 1 handful cilantro, stems trimmed
  • ½ lime, sliced into very thin ½-inch sized pie-slice segments, including peel
  • ¼ cup toasted or crispy cashews, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup toasted coconut flakes
  • 1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated

Preparation

Heat a cast-iron or stainless steel skillet over medium-high and add the pork and chopped portion of green onions. Break up the pork with a wood spatula and brown the meat and onions for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the tamari or coconut aminos, garlic, and ginger and cook for another minute or two, until the pork is fully cooked and no longer bright pink. Set aside.

Combine the lime juice, fish sauce, palm sugar or honey, and tamari or coconut aminos in a small bowl. Whisk in the sesame oil.

When you are ready to assemble, spoon about 2 tablespoons of the minced pork onto a lettuce leaf, topped with some sliced vegetables, cilantro, ribbons from the ends of the green onions, and lime segments. Sprinkle the cashews and toasted coconut over the top. The cups should contain mostly vegetables with just a little pork, but it’s up to you and those at the table what proportions of each component they like. Drizzle a little bit of the dressing over each lettuce cup.

Homeskillet Notes

  • If you use smaller lettuce leaves, or a smaller lettuce variety like Little Gems, the cups make a great appetizer or party food.
  • The pretty cuts of vegetables are what take up the time in this recipe. If you’re in a hurry and/or the appearance of the vegetables are not paramount, you can grate the seeded cucumber, carrots, and radishes, and just slice the green ends of the green onions.
  • Instead of cashews, toasted almonds, Valencia peanuts or sunflower seeds will work.

 

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