Once again, this meal was dictacted by the random assortment of ingredients in our fridge/cupboard. I originally bought the butter lettuce for a Jicama, Radish and Pepita Salad, but then our jicama went bad. So I was stuck with a thing of really nice butter lettuce from Whole Foods that I needed to use. We had defrosted the ground pork to make our Spicy Long Beans with Sausage and Mushrooms, which required only 2 oz of ground pork when we had to defrost roughly 3/4 of a pound. So we had about 1/2 a pound of ground pork to use in addition to the lettuce. I was originally going to make some sort of Vietnamese pork meatballs for our lettuce wraps, but I got lazy and decided to just saute the ground pork instead. I added some water chestnuts because I noticed that we had several cans when cleaning out the pantry the other day and wanted to use one up. Plus I love the crunch that the water chestnuts imparts. The carrots, cucumbers and cilantro are typical banh mi toppings that I decided to throw on for garnish and added freshness (although I decided not to pickle them), whereas the cashews were there for some more texture and salt. I'm a big believer that almost every Southeast Asian dish is better off with a healthy squeeze of lime juice and a dollop of sriracha so we served those with the dish as well.
This dish really needs a healthy squeeze of lime juice to make it all come together and pop. When you get that lime flavor it really comes to life. Without the lime it is a little boring, but with the lime you can really taste the slightly sweet, floral qualities of the five-spice and the sweetness of the brown sugar. Add a little dollop of sriracha and you have the heat and acidity of the sriracha, the sweetness of the sugar, the warmth of the five-spice and the sweet tartness of the limes. Yum. I seriously considered squeezing two tablespoons of lime juice or so over the entire bowl of pork filling before serving, but I think that in the end being able to customize your wrap is one of the best parts so I served the lime wedges on the side. Just don't be stingy on the limes or you might be a little disappointed in the filling. Also, don't buy unsalted cashews on accident like I did because that's just a total bummer when you bite in expecting that salty crunch and instead you just get crunch. It's very sad.
Recipe after the jump!
Five-Spice Pork Lettuce Wraps
1 large garlic clove (or 2 small garlic cloves), minced
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 tbsp peanut oil
1/2 pound ground pork
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup water chestnuts, finely chopped
10 butter lettuce leaves
1 carrot, shredded
1 kirby cucumber, julienned
2 tbsp cilantro, roughly chopped
roasted salted cashews, chopped
Heat a wok or large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add oil. Stir-fry the garlic and ginger until fragrant and the garlic is beginning to turn golden, about 1 minutes. Add the pork, five-spice powder, soy sauce, and brown sugar and stir-fry until the pork is beginning to brown, but is not cooked all the way through, about 3-4 minutes. Add water chestnuts. Stir-fry until pork is cooked through, around 2-3 more minutes.
Serve pork mixture with the lettuce leaves, carrot, cucumber, cilantro, cashews, sriracha and lime wedges.