Vietnamese Beef (or Tempeh) Lettuce Wraps
I’ve been craving the fresh taste of Vietnamese food lately and haven’t found a nearby spot to satisfy that craving, so I decided to whip it up myself for our latest market dinner. Our Wednesday dinner featured these wraps with either beef, or tempeh for our veggie friends. Both versions are delightful so I recommend that you try them both out at some point. The marinade is the same for both. This recipe is a take on bun bo nuong, but eaten as a wrap. I love the combination of textures and tastes in this dish: the savory/sweet of the beef combined with the cool crunch of the vegetables and peanuts, and topped off with the brightness of the fresh herbs. YUM. If you haven’t used fish sauce, I recommend adding it to your pantry. Don’t be put off by the seriously funky and pungent smell because it translates into a wonderfully aromatic and salty addition to asian dishes. I literally had in in my arsenal when we travelled across country because its become so integral. The lemongrass can be found in asian groceries or better markets, like whole foods. If you can’t find it, replace with a little lemon zest. I do not recommend using the lemongrass powder because it can taste too perfumed and strong, in my opinion. Another side note about this dish is that it is both gluten-free AND low-fat. You gotta love that.
Vietnamese Beef Lettuce Wraps
1 pound Top round sirloin, cut thin against the grain
1 pound of tempeh
4-6 ounces rice vermicelli
1 cucumber, cut into thin strips
salt and pepper to taste
fresh bean sprouts
boston lettuce leaves (at least 2 heads)
sriracha (rooster) sauce, or other hot sauce
In a medium bowl combine:
6 cloves of garlic, wacked with a knife
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 stalk of lemon grass, sliced into 3 inch pieces that can easily be removed from marinade
1. For the marinade, combine all ingredients in a glass or plastic bowl. Thinly slice the beef against the grain in 1 inch chunks, using a very sharp knife. (I like to freeze the beef for 30 minutes to make it easier to slice.) Aim to keep your slices consistent. If you are using tempeh, cut into cubes.
2. Add the beef (or tempeh) to the marinade and cover. Marinate between 30 minutes and 8 hours. The longer the time, the better, for a deep flavor.
3. When the beef is marinated, take out of the fridge and allow to warm for 30 minutes before cooking.
NOTE: If you are using tempeh, roast in 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, turning once in the middle to brown on both sides.
4. While the beef is warming, soak the rice noodles in warm water for 15 minutes and then gently boil for 2-3 minutes. DON’T OVERCOOK! Follow with a cold water rinse and set aside.
5. Heat a cast-iron or heavy-bottomed skillet to high and add 2 tablespoons of a neutral oil like Canola. Add beef and marinade (without lemongrass stalks) when its hot and allow to brown on each side, which should take about 2 minutes per side. You don’t want the beef to overcook or it can become tough.
6. Remove beef from heat and pour into a bowl.
7. Either assemble the wraps yourself or serve all of the components and allow your guests to assemble. I like to take the lettuce and top with the noodles, then the beef or tempeh, and garnish with cucumber, the herbs, bean sprouts and finish with the crushed peanuts and a drizzle of Sriacha.