I love the flavors of Asian cuisine but don’t cook it at home very often because I typically feel that some sort of flavor is lacking.  You see, my best friend grew up with a mother from Vietnam and the foods we were able to help prepare, and (mostly) eat I still love to this day; the fresh herbs we tucked into her spring rolls and dipped in nouc mam, and homemade pho (soup) were so delicious! Those amazing food memories often cause me to shy away from trying to cook this way myself but I came across a recipe that sounded so delicious, fresh, and doable, I decided to test it out and am very happy I did! This Vietnamese inspired lettuce wrap recipe is one I saw in the Food Network Magazine and I absolutely recommend making it. There are some ingredients that you may not have in your pantry, such as fish sauce or sambal oelek, but are worth investing in.  I did make a few necessary modifications (I couldn’t find fresh lemongrass at my grocery store so had to use a lemongrass paste) but overall I stayed true to the recipe. This was a nice dish to start on Sunday evening and finish for a Monday night dinner since the pork should marinate overnight for a more intense flavor.  (I also plan to try to replace the pork with tofu and test out a meatless version of these lettuce wraps.) The pork marinade is easy to make; the main thing is to look for thin boneless pork chops as they really do a nice job of absorbing the flavor and are perfect for cutting into thin strips…. 
Fast Forward to Monday night: I rinsed and dried the trio of fresh herbs – mint-basil-cilantro – and arranged them on a plate so they would be ready-to-go when we assembled our wraps. The sauce is easy to build and is a wonderful combination of fresh lime juice, chili sauce, fish sauce, grated carrots, garlic, sugar and salt. I have to say that this recipe offers a flavor VERY close to the one my friend’s mother made for us, growing up.  I will be doubling this batch next time and using the extra for other dipping or dressing purposes! Next I had to do a little chopping of  cucumber and jalapeno for the filling, again easy. The last step was to grill the pork, a few minutes on each side; I let it rest for two minutes and then sliced it into thin strips. And, as the pork was grilling, I pulled apart the lettuce leaves that would serve as the wraps for our dinner. The end result: a finished lettuce wrap for your viewing pleasure… and our eating enjoyment!   Two last things to note:  I did not include the fried scallions/onions the recipe recommended and I didn’t feel like we missed anything. And we did have the shrimp chips the recipe suggested as the “side dish” but again you could do without them as well. (But they are a rather tasty treat!) —Rachel

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