I love lettuce cups and lettuce wraps. The contrast between the crisp and refreshing lettuce and some kind of savory, spiced filling is a slam dunk for me, particularly in the summer. It’s getting really hot here in Tokyo, and these pork lettuce cups with cucumber salsa make a great lunch for one of those days when even the thought of anything warm for lunch makes you sweat.
Have you ever noticed that most lettuce cups have Asian flavors? I think that’s a combo of larb and P.F. Chang’s fault. But what if you don’t feel like having fish sauce or hoisin? I wanted a non-Asian version that still had all of the crucial elements of a great lettuce wrap. It had to have something salty, something crunchy, a bit of acid to brighten the dish, a little hit of spicy, and a minced protein that wouldn’t require biting to get through. In this case, the ground pork is both salty and fits the protein requirement. A raw salsa of cucumber, red onions and tomatoes adds crunch. Toss the salsa with a splash of vinegar for the acid. Cayenne pepper and smoked paprika make it just spicy enough.
Feel free to substitute something else for the protein, like ground chicken or turkey. Or shrimp, yum. You can also make these lettuce cups vegetarian by chopping your favorite mushrooms and using them in place of the meat.
One year ago: Use your favorite scents to customize your own DIY Essential Oil Sugar Scrub.
- 1 tablespoon neutral cooking oil, such as canola
- 1/3 lb ground pork
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 small cucumber, diced
- 8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar (or your favorite vinegar)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 8-10 leaves of lettuce, washed and dried. I used Boston Bibb because they make really great little cups and they're not so crispy that the lettuce breaks when you fold it.
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, to finish. can substitute basil if you really hate cilantro!
- 1. Soak the red onions in ice water for about 10 minutes to make them less bracing. Chop them into 1/4 inch pieces when they're done soaking and transfer them to a medium-sized bowl. Add the tomatoes and cucumber, then toss the vegetables with the olive oil and vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- 2. Heat the cooking oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the ground pork and garlic and cook until the pork start to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the paprika and cayenne and continue to cook until the pork is completely cooked through, about 2 more minutes (may take longer depending on your burner and pan). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- 3. Lay the lettuce out on a platter so that they make little cups. Divide the pork between the lettuce cups. Divide the salsa between the cups. Top with cilantro and eat with your hands!
- This recipe makes a light lunch for 2 people (I'd probably need some apple wedges or something else to round out the meal!), or it will serve about 4 people as a snack/appetizer.