These Vietnamese Beef Lettuce Wraps with Rice Noodles and Cucumber Relish are a fun, festive and healthful summertime dinner for two.
Spicy beef fills these Vietnamese-inspired wraps along with lots of fresh, crunchy vegetables. The wraps are accompanied by a sweet-sour cucumber relish, rice noodles, fresh basil and cilantro, peanuts and a tangy soy-lime dipping sauce.
Now, you might look at this recipe and say “Whoa, that’s going to take me all day!” However, it comes together fairly quickly. Because of the separate components, you and your loved one can easily share the preparation. All the elements for a satisfying meal are here: Protein, lots of fresh, crunchy vegetables and starch in the form of rice noodles so no extra sides are needed. Rice noodles cook extremely fast and you can purchase the shredded carrots.
There’s quite a bit of fresh ginger in this dish. Grating ginger to be wasteful and time-consuming because so much can stay on the grater. Instead, I like to peel and coarsely chop it, then process in a mini food processor with just enough water to create a puree. The puree is similar to prepared ginger products that are available in the produce section but don’t have the additives. If you make too much puree, freeze the excess in a snack-size zipper top bag.
The filling can also be made with tofu, ground chicken, turkey or pork. Using wheat-free tamari or coconut aminos in place of soy sauce will make the wraps entirely gluten-free.
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3/4 pounds lean ground beef
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 English (hothouse) cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 scallions, white and light green part only, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 teaspoon sugar (or to taste)
salt and black pepper, to taste
LETTUCE AND TOPPINGS
6 large leaves Boston lettuce
1 sprig fresh basil, thinly sliced
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup peanuts, coarsely chopped
SAUCE: Combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Divide into small bowls for each diner.
FILLING: Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Cook onion and ginger 4-5 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and beef. Cook 4-5 minutes or until beef is browned and no longer pink, crumbling the beef into small pieces as you go. Drain well. Stir in remaining filling ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally or until almost evaporated.
RELISH: Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
TO ASSEMBLE: Spoon meat mixture onto lettuce leaves, top with basil, carrots, rice noodles, peanuts and lime wedges as desired. Roll up and serve with dipping sauce.