Lettuce wraps are a Vietnamese specialty, often used as an appetizer or side instead of a main course. But for a light, better-for-you lunch or dinner, we enjoy them as a main.
Lettuce wraps are a fun, interactive course for lunch or dinner. You can wrap up any boneless protein in a lettuce leaf; or make it a vegetarian dish, using anything from tofu or seitan to stir-fried vegetables.
While the recipe below is so easy it can be made on weekdays, it’s also festive for Labor Day weekend. The secret is pre-cooked Tony Roma’s Boneless Ribs (other brands sell a similar product).
The meaty ribs ready to heat and eat. You can heat them on the grill, in the oven or in the microwave. The ribs are sold at Sam’s Club and other retailers nationwide.
The other tasks are simply to wash the lettuce, make a quick Asian slaw and set out the sauces. If you want to cut back on the number of sauces, just pick the one everyone will like (we recommend hoisin*). Whatever you choose should be thick, so it doesn’t dribble out of the wrap.
Wrap cooked boneless ribs in lettuce leaves and top with Asian slaw, cilantro and a sauce of choice. Photo courtesy Tony Roma’s.
*Hoisin sauce is a thick, sweet-and-pungent sauce popular in Chinese cuisine as a glaze for meat, an addition to stir fries, as dipping sauce and a condiment (e.g., in lettuce wraps as well as dishes with pancake wrap such as Moo Shoo Pork and Peking Duck). It is dark brown in color. Hoisin is not the same as plum sauce, which is an orange-colored sweet and sour sauce. In Vietnamese, hoisin sauce is called tuong den.
WHAT ARE BONELESS RIBS?
Boneless ribs, also called country-style pork ribs or or pork shoulder country-style ribs, are thick strips of meat cut from the pig’s shoulder. They come from a cut called the pork shoulder steak; so they are not actually from the rib cage, but look like the meat removed from a rib. They are marinated and seasoned before cooking.
Boneless ribs, also called pork loin country-style ribs, can be cut from the shoulder blade as well. They can be sold bone-in, but the bone is usually to make them boneless.
Boneless country-style pork ribs. Photo courtesy Calumet Diversified Meats.
RECIPE: BONELESS RIB LETTUCE WRAPS
Since the ribs are pre-cooked, prep time is just 15 minutes; cook time is 15 minutes.
Ingredients For 4 Servings
32 ounces† Tony Roma’s Boneless Pork Ribs
12 leaves of crisp green leaf lettuce (we use romaine hearts, but Boston or bibb work well too)
1 radish, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 cucumber, finely chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons sweet rice vinegar
Salt to taste
For The Slaw
†There are 3 boneless ribs in each 16-ounce package and 6 boneless ribs in each 32-ounce package. Each person can have two lettuce wraps.
For The Garnish
½ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
4 tablespoons sambal oelek chili sauce or Sriracha hot sauce
4 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
For The Sauces
1. WASH the lettuce and pat dry with paper towels.
2. PREPARE the boneless ribs per package instructions.
3. MAKE the salad topping: Combine the radish, carrot, cucumber and green onions in a mixing bowl. Add the sweet rice vinegar and season with a pinch of salt (or more to taste). Gently toss and set aside in a cool place. When ready to serve…
4. INSTRUCT everyone on how to serve themselves: Take a lettuce leaf and place a strip of boneless rib in center. Top with some of the slaw; then garnish with cilantro and choice of sauces (hoisin, Sriracha, sambal oelek, sweet chili).