Thai Ground Pork Lettuce Wraps

Savory Recipes, Spring • 23 May 2008

There’s nothing like a flavorful, healthy, well balanced meal to bring your day to a close. It is often true that flavorful and healthy do not go hand in hand, but these attributes do not have to be oxymoronic.

I love Thai Ground-Pork Salad, which I found in an old issue of Gourmet Magazine from 1999. I adapted it slightly for my own purposes, using Boston lettuce to wrap the pork mixture instead of cabbage and using panko bread crumbs instead of your run of the mill variety. I also add steamed Japanese sticky rice to the original recipe for added texture and to have a starch for energy.

It is an absolutely perfect combination of flavors and textures- the crunchy lettuce and sticky, starchy rice nicely contrasts the zesty, souped-up ground pork. You’ve got your veg, your starch, and your protein gift wrapped and ready for munching. It’s healthy, gourmet, and wonderful enough for a casual dinner for two or as part of a dinner party menu. And it is easy to make and assemble, to boot.

Thai Ground Pork Lettuce Wraps

2 bowls sticky rice (see recipe below)
1 head Boson lettuce, leaves separated, washed, and dried
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 bunch fresh mint
2 small shallots
10 ounces lean ground pork
3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
1 to 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (preferably naam pla)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1. Chop enough cilantro and mint leaves to measure 2 tablespoons each. Arrange lettuce leaves on platter. Thinly slice shallots lengthwise.

2. In a small saucepan with a fork stir together pork and 2 tablespoons lime juice and cover with cold salted water. Bring pork to a simmer, stirring with fork to break up meat, and gently simmer until just cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. In a sieve drain pork well and put back into saucepan with shallots, chopped herbs, bread crumbs, fish sauce, cayenne, and remaining lime juice to taste.

3. Mix well and transfer pork salad to a serving bowl and put on platter. Spoon out individual bowls of rice. Have guests serve themselves: Spoon rice and pork salad on top of lettuce leaves. Close lettuce around mixture to eat. Enjoy!

Yield: Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a main course.

Sticky Rice:
1 cups Japanese rice, such as Nishiki or Hikari
1 1/4 cups water

1. Put rice in a sieve and wash with cold water. Repeat washing until the water becomes clear and drain.

2. Place rice in a deep pot and add measured water. Let rice soak for 30 minutes to an hour. Cover pot with lid and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water boils, turn down heat to low and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the water is almost completely gone. Turn off the heat and let rice steam for 10-15 minutes before opening the lid.

Yield: 3 cooked cups of rice; 2 servings.

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