Vietnamese Lettuce Wraps and Yay for Asians

Friday, December 12, 2008

On this happy Friday, I am happy to report that yours truly is officially the new food writer for AsianWeek, the oldest and largest English language newspaper serving the Asian/Pacific Islander American community. My weekly column, entitled Asian Eats, will feature 1) reviews on restaurants in SF, focusing Asian cuisine and establishments run by Asian business owners, and 2) recipe remixes you can do yourself, inspired by the restaurant/cuisine of the week.

So don’t be shy, Asians and Asian loverrrs…check out Asian Eats, posted live every Friday!

This week’s story gives props to Bodega Bistro, my favorite spot for a pho fix. I’ve expanded on the original review I wrote on Lick My Spoon, and also added this DIY recipe for Bun Cha Hanoi, Grilled Pork and Rice Vermicelli Lettuce Wraps.

Bun Cha Hanoi, Grilled Pork and Rice Vermicelli Lettuce Wraps

Bun Cha Hanoi, Grilled Pork and Rice Vermicelli Lettuce Wraps

Despite the number of different elements to this dish, it is surprisingly easy to put together. The meat only takes 30 minutes to marinate, and then another 10-15 minutes to sear up. With the use of fish sauce, garlic, and grated onion, the pork turns out amazingly flavorful. Using fatty (a.k.a. delicious) pork shoulder helps as well.

Bun Cha Hanoi, Grilled Pork and Rice Vermicelli Lettuce Wraps
Recipe adapted from Wandering Chopsticks.

The first item on the assembly line to take care of is the meat.

Grilled Pork
2 lb pork shoulder, sliced thinly
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons grated onion
4 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Sliced pork shoulder set to marinate

Sliced pork shoulder set to marinate

Slice the pork as thin as possible. Mix it together with the rest of the ingredients and let it marinate for at least 30 minutes before cooking. If you are letting it sit for awhile, cover it and put it in the refrigerator.

Wok time

Wok time

When you are ready to cook, take the meat out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. Drizzle your wok, or large pan, with some vegetable oil and place it on medium-high heat. Place the meat and all of the marinade into the pan. To get a nice brown crust, it is important to let it cook without disturbing it within the first 5-8 minutes. Once the first side is done, flip and brown the other side. Saute until the juices evaporate and the meat is lightly charred.

Do Chua (Pickled Carrots and Daikon)
Recipe from Wandering Chopsticks.
1 medium-sized carrot, julienned
1 small daikon, julienned
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup white vinegar or rice vinegar

Too lazy to get daikon so just pickled carrots for me

Too lazy to get daikon so just pickled carrots for me

Julienne or coarsely shred the vegetables. Spread them out in a shallow bowl, and sprinkle with sugar. Add the pinch of salt. Then pour enough vinegar to submerge about half the vegetables. If you are eating this right away, use rice vinegar for a lighter taste. If you intend to store these as pickles, then ordinary white vinegar is fine.

After about 15 minutes or so, stir the vegetables so the vinegar is mixed. The carrots and daikon should be lightly pickled after about half an hour. Store extra pickles and vinegar in a glass jar. Add enough vinegar to fill the jar halfway and fill up the rest with water. Store the jar in the refrigerator.

Nuoc cham (Vietnamese fish sauce)
Tip: this stuff is pungent, so open your windows and turn on the vent.
5 tablespoons sugar
1 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/3 cup fish sauce
2/3 cup water
1 clove garlic, minced
Red chili flakes to taste

Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)

Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)

Place a saucepan over low heat and mix together sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, fish sauce, and water. Add the minced chili and garlic. Save extra sauce in a glass jar in the fridge; it should last for a long time.

Rice vermicelli
These thin rice noodles should be marked “Bean Thread.” They come in little bundles within a package. I used the whole package.

Rice Vermicelli

Rice Vermicelli

Boil the noodles and drain them in a colander. Wandering Chopsticks suggests placing a bowl, turned upside down in your colander before pouring in the noodles to help prevent clumping. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.

Bean sprouts, cilantro, mint, and basil
Wash the bean sprouts. Pluck and wash the herbs. (If I had to pick one vital herb out of the three, I would say mint. Sometimes you don’t want to buy 3 things of fresh herbs…I understand.)

Leafy lettuce
Separate leaves and wash.

Bun Cha Accessories

Bun Cha Accessories

Assembly Time
Go family style, and place all the ingredients on platters in the middle of the table. Present each diner with their own little bowl of the nuoc cham dipping sauce. Take a big leafy piece of lettuce, pluck some cilantro, mint and basil and place inside. Dunk a handful of noodles in the dipping sauce, and make a little bed on the lettuce. Pile on a few pieces of pork, top with a little pickled carrots, daikon, and bean sprouts. Wrap it all up, and into your mouth it goes!

(Serves 4)

Bun Cha Hanoi Spread

Bun Cha Hanoi Spread

Print Recipe

12 Responses to “Vietnamese Lettuce Wraps and Yay for Asians”

  1. Wow… This looks delicious. I don’t eat pork though, do you recommend another protein to substitute with… veal? Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Stephanie says:

    maisie: yum indeed :)

    dirtykitchensecrets: thanks! yes, i think you could definitely substitute using veal or chicken even. enjoy!

  3. Kitchen M says:

    I love this dish! It’s so healthy and tastes great!

  4. Girl Says says:

    Made this the other night… amazing!! The nauc cham is a must to have with the dish. It’s very good on it’s own, but the Vietnamese fish sauce was the “icing on the cake”!!

  5. Crystal says:

    This looks great. We often have Thai Larb with minced pork and spices stuffed in lettuce leaves, so I’m sure we’ll love this. Now I have to check out your weekly Asian Eats posts, so bye foe now!

  6. This looks great! I remember waking up on Saturday mornings when my parents were heating up the vinegar-fish sauce tag team to make nuoc cham. Geez, was I mad . . . but always worth it! ;)

  7. Mary says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe!  It is a summer staple at our house and my family loves it!  I tried zipping the marinade together in my food processor this time, and it worked beautifully.  (I always seemed to have trouble grating the onion.)

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