Last year I visited the Urban Element on Parkdale for a cooking class called Live and Let Thai. This is awesome on multiple levels. First, it’s a Paul McCartney reference, which is awesome. Secondly, I love Thai food – and the Urban Element’s class did not disappoint.
Chef Candice Butler taught us all about the tastes, flavours and techniques of traditional Thai cooking. We made an enormous and delicious dinner that featured Tom Yum Soup, Beef Satays with Peanut Sauce, Coconut Shrimp with Garlic Aioli, Lemongrass Poached Salmon and Coconut Kaffir Lime Creme Brûlée, just to name a few.
Perhaps my favourite dish of the night was the Spicy Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps. Succulent, crunchy, crispy, sweet and spicy goodness. I’ve made it numerous times since, making small tweaks and changes each time, and I think I’ve perfected it.
Spicy Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps
1 large pork tenderloin, finely chopped
4 tbsp canola oil
1 cup shallots, minced
2 tbsp ginger, grated (or galangal if you want to get real authentic!)
3 red chillies, chopped
1/4 cup lemongrass, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 green onions, diced
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, thinly sliced
1 lime, cut into wedges
1/4 of a cucumber, cut into long thin slices, lengthwise
1 head of Lettuce (Bibb, Boston or Romaine)
Start by heating 2 tbsp of the canola oil in a large wok over medium-high heat. When hot, add the shallots and cook until soft and golden brown, stirring often.
Meanwhile, combine the remaining canola oil, ginger, chillies, lemongrass, garlic, salt and sesame seeds in a food processor and blend into a smooth paste. When the shallots are cooked, add the paste, and mix throughly. Sauté for about a minute before adding in the minced pork, stirring to combine.
Continue to cook pork until it is cooked all the way through, about 10-15 minutes. Add in the green onions, cilantro, fish sauce and brown sugar, stirring to combine.
Okay, now it’s time to assemble your lettuce wraps. Start by selecting your lettuce leaves. Try to find the strongest leaves, without any tears in the them. You also want them to be a bit “bowl” shaped, allowing you to hold in all of the fillings. Add your pork first, followed cucumber slices. Top with the chopped peanuts, a couple of mint leaves and lime wedge for squeezing.
Spicy, messy and delicious. Enjoy!