If you really want to know how I'm feeling or what kind of day I've had, asking me what I'd like for dinner is probably the best way to find out. I was feeling off today, and I didn't know how bad it was until Jer asked what I wanted tonight and I answered without thinking: lettuce wraps.
I love the refreshingly crunchy lettuce, the spicy and savory meat, and the kalidescope of flavors once you've assembled your wrap. And there's something soothing about putting together each mini-course by hand. It's an exercize in mindfulness to decide how much meat, heat, sweet, and texture to add to your portion; to enjoy your little piece of work and then to begin again.
The ingredients vary a little but here are the staples that go into most of our wraps:
- A head of lettuce, separated into leaves
- Bean sprouts
- Mint leaves
- Lime (either wedged for squeezing, or minced ever so fine)
- Minced ginger
- Chopped peanuts
- Peppers: Thai chiles, serrano, etc. sliced or minced.
You can use some or all of these, mixing it up however you see fit. Sometimes making wraps is a good way to clear out the fridge (one of our motivators tonight was polish off the leftovers from a New Year's Eve veggie platter).
When I can find it at a Thai restaurant, I love to order Miang kam; a similar dish that often includes shredded coconut, tiny dried shrimp, shallots, and a delicious sweet sauce. The point is to seek out a variety of textures and flavors that work well together.
For me, it's comfort food when it's meaty. So our wraps almost always include ground pork.
Usually I brown up a pound of pork in the wok and kind of just wing the flavor. I aim for spicy (I always aim for spicy!) -- red pepper flakes, chili oil, thai chilis, or just a whole lot of ancho and cayenne. I add some savory with a variety of worchesterchire, soy sauce, golden mountain, etc. And a bit of brightness with fish sauce or possibly even lime. I once tossed a bit of maple syrup into the mix and it was delicious!
When I cook this way it's usually good, sometimes amazing, and never repeatable. We tried out a recipe this time: Spicy Ginger Pork in Lettuce Leaves
The recipe was really tasty! We used roasted red peppers in lieu of the diced bell peppers. There wasn't any heat so I fixed that with minced thai chiles and cayenne; otherwise we were pretty faithful.
The recipe has you putting a bunch of wrap ingredients into the ground pork itself and then wrapping the fancy pork mixture in lettuce with no other accoutrements. That's obviously not how I want to make my wraps, so it's kind of redundant to add cilantro, water chestnuts, etc. to the pork. If I do this over again I'll probably skip that stuff and add it as I go, using the sauce components from the recipe (plus heat!).
We skipped this fishy dipping sauce tonight and I regretted it. I'll always make a dipping sauce with my wraps from here on out!
It was a good evening. After our girl went to sleep, we had our wraps and played a little Rock Band. A comforting way to enjoy a chilly winter evening.