That’s a wrap! Meatballs find a carb-free friend in lettuce

Courtesy of Vino Girl via food.com
Courtesy of Vino Girl via food.com
Courtesy of Vino Girl via food.com

There is nothing better than indulging in a dish that not only tastes good, but promises to leave you feeling good too. Consider the lettuce wrap phenomenon— by replacing a taco shell or tortilla with a fresh lettuce wrap, one can allow themselves to enjoy more than serving and not have to worry about filling the meal with unnecessary carbs. More over, this culinary concept completely transforms the way we look at a typical salad and yet still allows oneself to reap the same nutritional value and benefits.  However, don’t be scared away by the healthy eating— if you find yourself intimidated by the idea of replacing lettuce over carbs, just think about how much room you’ll be saving for dessert— clearly a win-win exchange.

This brings us to Vietnamese meatball lettuce wraps. This savory recipe combines a variety of fresh ingredients and food groups while being coupled with a jungle mango salad and cilantro-basil cashew sauce. While appropriate for any season, this dish makes a perfect segue into the spring with an emphasis on fresh and natural produce. Furthermore, this recipe does not require any intense culinary skill set but at the same time promises an impressive and substantial meal without any use of cheese or carbs. The lettuce wraps will require at least a half hour between the actual preparation and cooking, but fair warning, once these wraps are finished and ready to be served, they will likely disappear in no time!

The Vietnamese meatball lettuce wraps revolve around three major components: the mango salad, green cashew sauce and wraps. Start by preparing the salad which consists of mangos, carrots, cucumbers, red onion, red fresno pepper and fresh lime juice. Once these ingredients are well prepared in their proper form, toss them together in a bowl and allow them to sit separately in the fridge until the rest of the dish is ready to be served.

The green cashew sauce combines a variety of flavors which together, form a pleasantly surprising concoction. Gather cilantro, basil, cashews, coconut milk lime juice, thai red curry paste and sweet thai chile sauce into a blender or food processor. Once all the crucial components are in order, blend this mix until it appears to be smooth and creamy (this usually takes around 3 to 5 minutes.) Feel free to test out your sauce along the way (many people tend to add in additional sweet thai chile sauce for an extra kick).

Lastly, in preparation for the wraps and their filling, season the pork with salt and pepper and distribute the meat into 20-30 tablespoon sized meatballs. As you work, transfer each meatball onto a tray and separately, combine the sesame oil, soy sauce, fish sauce and honey which will later become the dipping sauce. Next, locate a large skillet and place it over medium heat to cook the meatballs for approximately 5 minutes. To ensure that the pork is entirely cooked through, be sure to turn the meatballs over at least 2 to 3 times.  Right before the pork is finished cooking, pour the sauce into the pan so that each meatball is completely smothered within the savory marinade. The secret to lettuce wraps is doubling up the lettuce leaves and cutting up the meatballs before hand so they do not “over-stuff” the lettuce and break the wrapping. Top each lettuce sandwich with the jungle mango salad, cashew sauce and enjoy.

 

Ingredients

Mango Salad:

1 mango (peeled into thin strips)

1 carrot (cut into small slices)

1 cucumber (cut into small slices)

1 red onion (thinly sliced)

1 red fresno chile pepper (chopped)

1 lime (squeezed into juice)

1/2 cup of roasted cashews (chopped)

Green Cashew Sauce:

1/4 cup fresh cilantro

1/4 cup fresh basil

3/4 cups roasted cashews

1/3 cup coconut milk

2 limes (squeezed into juice)

1 teaspoon thai red curry paste

2-4 tablespoons sweet thai chili sauce

Meatballs:

1 pound ground pork sausage

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons honey

1 head butter lettuce

1/2 cup sweet thai chill sauce

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