These spicy lettuce wraps are one of my favourite things to eat – I love the sweet-spicy-sour flavour profile of the crispy meat filling, and the freshness of iceberg lettuce leaves to wrap it all up. And the sheer messiness of it all is fun, too. They’re great party food, as long as everyone is comfortable with chowing down caveman style.
I used half pork and half beef for the filling, just because I didn’t buy enough pork – but I actually have made it twice this way now and really like it. I find all pork is a bit richer.
For the sauce, I mixed bottled sweet chili sauce and spicy sambal oelek – I think it provides just the right balance of sweetness and heat. But sweet chili sauce alone is great, too, if that’s all you have on hand.
The secret is to cook the flavourful meat mixture until the fat renders, then let it get really brown and crispy in the hot pan. Don’t just cook it until no longer pink -you want it to have lots of gorgeous crunchy bits that are flavourful and deeply browned.
I’m finding that lime leaves are becoming more and more widely available around here – but if you can’t find them, use lime zest. When I see them, I’ll often stock up and pop the extras in the freezer in a ziploc bag.
Spicy Pork Lettuce Wraps
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 shallot minced
- 2 " piece ginger minced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 red chile thai bird chile, or substitute 1/2 a serrano
- 8 kaffir lime leaves or zest of 1 lime
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 2 tbsp brown sugar packed
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1 tbsp minced fresh mint
- 2 tbsp minced cilantro
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- salt to taste
- 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
- 1/4 cup sambal oelek
- 2 heads iceberg lettuce leaves separated
- 1 carrot grated
- mint leaves
- cilantro leaves
- bean sprouts not pictured
- lime wedges
- Heat oil in a heavy skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add shallot and cook until softened, about 2 minutes, then add ginger, garlic, chile and lime leaves and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Stir in pork and beef, and cook, breaking meat up into small bits with spoon and stirring occasionally, until cooked through.
- Add brown sugar and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until meat is browned and crispy, about 10 minutes more. Stir in lime juice, herbs and fish sauce. Add salt to taste.
- Stir together sweet chili and sambal oelek. Transfer meat to a bowl and allow guests to build their own lettuce wraps, with lettuce leaves, shredded carrots, herbs and sauce.