At Plum Alley in Salt Lake City, chef Ryan Lowder makes what he calls "American Asian food," which includes delicious versions of his favorite Thai dishes. He especially loves this northern Thai pork salad wrapped in lettuce leaves.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 (large) garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 pound ground pork or beef
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Asian fish sauce
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon long-grain rice
2 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed
3 Thai chiles, very thinly sliced with seeds
Boston lettuce leaves, for serving
1/4 (small) red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Thai basil leaves, torn
1/4 cup mint leaves, torn
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, torn
How to Make It
In a medium skillet, toast the rice over moderate heat, shaking the pan often, until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer the rice to a plate and let cool completely. Put the toasted rice in a spice grinder and grind to a powder.
In the skillet, heat the oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderately low heat, stirring a few times, until golden brown, about 1 minute. Add 1 teaspoon of the sugar and cook for about 20 seconds. Add the ground pork and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the meat finely, until no pink remains, about 3 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of the fish sauce and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the lime juice with the remaining 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar, two-thirds of the chiles and 1 tablespoon of water. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
Arrange the lettuce leaves on a platter with the dipping sauce. Reheat the pork. Remove from the heat and stir in the onion, basil, mint, cilantro and the remaining chile. Sprinkle the pork with the rice powder. Transfer to a bowl and place on or near the platter. Let everyone spoon the pork onto the lettuce leaves and season with the dipping sauce.
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