Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thai beef wraps

You know, I don't cook nearly enough Thai food.  Sure, I've made Tom Yum soup, but I don't really venture into Thai cooking all that often. And I'm not sure why, because (a) I usually have almost all the ingredients on hand, (b) Thai food typically doesn't consist of ridiculously complicated dishes and (c) they're jam packed with flavors I love... and flavors we often associate with various ethnicities.

Flavors like:
- cilantro and lime (Mexican)
- curry (Indian)
- mint (Mediterranean)
- coconut (Island)
- basil (Italian)
- fish sauce (Asian)

On paper you might think that mixing fish sauce with cilantro and lime or curry with coconut would be weird. But somehow it's pure genius. And pure deliciousness.

One dish I often like to get is larb- a citrusy and spicy salad with ground meat. So when I was going through my Forever Summer cookbook by Nigella Lawson and I came across Thai lettuce wraps they sounded eerie similar to larb.

The flavors were simple but so good. Exactly what I needed. But I definitely tweaked the recipe because as written, it was entirely too bland for Thai cooking. (In fact, after having made a few recipes from her book I realize many of them are a bit lacking in umph.)

I wish I'd come across this Epicurious recipe before following Nigella's recipe because then I would have realized earlier that her measurements were wayyyyy lacking. But hey, that's what recipes are all about, modifying them to your taste.

The beef can be wrapped in lettuce or simply served atop it. 
Depends how messy you like your dinner to be...

I'll probably try that Epicurious recipe next time I want to satisfy my Thai fix. But in the end I was super pleased with my quick and refreshing meal.

You can't go wrong with cilantro and lime.

Thai beef lettuce wraps, adapted from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson


1 tsp vegetable oil
2 red hot chillies, finely chopped, or more to taste (I used 3 small green thai chillies and it still wasn’t spicy enough)
1 lb beef
4-5 scallions, white parts only, finely chopped
2-3 TBSP fish sauce
3 limes, zested and juiced, or more juice to taste
4-6 TBSP cilantro, finely chopped
iceburg lettuce, leaves removed whole, washed and dried (1-2 small heads)


1. Heat oil in nonstick pan on medium heat. When warm add chillies and cook for a few minutes, stirring.
2. Add beef, turn up the heat and use a spoon to crumble the beef. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until beef is no longer pink.
3. Add fish sauce and keep stirring until the liquid has all evaporated. (Note: fish sauce can be quite strong and once you’ve added too much there’s no going back. The original recipe called for 1 TBSP fish sauce but I ended up using 3 TBSP. I’d recommend you start with 1 TBSP and add a little more at a time until you’re happy with the flavor.)
4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the scallions, lime zest, lime juice and cilantro.
5. Place in a bowl and serve alongside iceberg lettuce leaves.


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