Vietnamese Pork Lettuce Wraps with Ginger Lime Dressing
Living in a multi-cultural city with significant pockets of new immigrants that come from all over the globe means there is no shortage of ethnic restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores within easy reach. Walk a mile out my front door and you can be sitting down to a meal from Nepal, El Salvador, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Japan, or Sardinia. And while I’ve enjoyed dipping my fork into all of these cuisines, nothing has quite gotten under my skin like the food and flavors of Vietnam. Whenever the call for “take-out” rings through the hallways of our house, usually on a lazy Friday night, Vietnamese is almost always my order of choice. The lightness and fresh, bright flavors are hard to resist.
These Vietnamese Pork Lettuce Wraps bring together what I love about Vietnamese cooking, done for the home kitchen. You start by making a gingery marinade for the pork that doubles as a dressing for the salad. The tenderloin, a particularly lean cut, cooks up quickly and very tender. Chicken or flank steak would work equally well here.
Once cooked and sliced, set out the pork along with all of your other “fixings” (cucumber spears, shredded carrots, mung bean sprouts, peanuts, and fresh cilantro). Generous lettuce leaves serve as a taco shell of sorts. Make more of everything than you need and turn it into a delicious chopped salad for your (or the kids) lunch the next day. It’s just the sort of DIY dinner that kids love with all the Vietnamese flavors adults (at least this one) are crazy about.
Vietnamese Pork Lettuce Wrap with Ginger Lime Dressing
- 1/2 cup lime juice (4 to 5 limes)
- 1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce or other favorite hot sauce (more if you like it spicy)
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
Pork and Wrap Fixings
- 1 pound pork tenderloin
- 1 1/2 cups mung bean sprouts
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1/2 English cucumber , cut into 1/4-inch-thick spears
- 1/4 cup roasted , salted peanuts
- 1/3 bunch fresh cilantro (chopped or in sprigs)
- Leaves from 1 large head butter lettuce or 1 head Romaine lettuce
In a medium bowl, whisk together the Marinade/Dressing ingredients. Pour half the marinade into a resealable plastic bag, add the the pork tenderloin, seal the bag, and refrigerate for at least an hour or as long as overnight. Reserve the remaining Marinade /Dressing for serving.
Remove the pork from the refrigerator a half hour before you are ready to cook.
Cook the pork over a medium-high grill, in a lightly greased heavy skillet over medium-high heat, or under a broiler until the center of the meat is pale pink and registers 150 degrees with an instant-read thermometer.
Remove from heat and rest for 10 minutes.
While the meat cooks, arrange the bean sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, peanuts, cilantro, and lettuce leaves on a serving platter.
Once the meat is cooked and rested, cut it lengthwise down the center and then crosswise into thin slices. Set out the pork with the rest of the wrap fixings, with the remaining dressing on the side.
To assemble, use a lettuce leaf as a taco shell and layer on the pork, sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, peanuts, and cilantro. Spoon a little dressing over the top and dive in.