Serious Eats: Recipes

Pork Lettuce Wraps

[Photograph: Blake Royer]

When I think about lettuce wraps, what comes to mind is not necessarily authentic Chinese--more like something to appear on a P.F. Chang's menu under the general moniker of "Asian." But turns out, lettuce wraps are an authentic Cantonese dish called sung choy bao (and delicious things wrapped in lettuce also makes appearances in Thai and Korean cuisines). They're quick to prepare and fun to eat, besides being delicious. The rich flavor of the meat against cool, crisp lettuce is a fantastic combination. I had a blast eating it and reliving childhood memories of ordering this dish as an appetizer from my local Chinese restaurant.

The preparation is kind of a cross between a sauté and a stir fry (it's not nearly as hot-and-fast as a stir-fry, but the idea is the same), made up of browned onions, ginger, pork, carrots, peppers, potatoes, water chesnuts, and plenty of garlic. After tasting it at a friend's house, they wrote this recipe out for me to recreate at home. The seasoning trick is to take hoisin sauce and reduce it until syrupy with loads of chopped garlic. It flavors the entire mixture with a sticky-sweet-garlicky goodness that plays perfectly against the crisp leaves of lettuce used to wrap it.

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