I remember the first time i had this dish... we were at our local Chinese restaurant, a daggy little place in Ringwood. But i loved it. The food was actually quite good, and it was one place we went quite often with extended family to celebrate birthdays and the like. Normally the presence of three children ensured the ordering of such staple fares as honey chicken and sweet and sour pork. As my tastes matured i became a devotee of the crystal prawns. But when my mother ordered the 'pork in lettuce cup' I, and my siblings, were mortified! "You mean to tell us you wasted one dish on LETTUCE???" raced through our heads.
Thankfully, the dish came out, and we were instantly converted. My favorite part of this dish is the contract in textures, which can come from a variety of sauces. The slight chewiness of the ground meat, the crisp crunch of the water chestnuts, the unctuous stickiness of the hoisin. This version is not the most regal one out there, but it stays relatively true to my first taste of the dish at Ringwood Chinese Restaurant.
One change i made: replacing the fried noodles on which the pork mixture sits, with fresh bean sprouts.
Ingredients (Serves 6 as entree)
1 head lettuce
500gm pork mince (you can use any mince you want, or even chopped prawns or lobster)
1 small can water chestnuts
6 large handfuls bean sprouts
3 tbsp hoisin
6 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 green chilli
1 inch knob ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 large carrot
1 medium onion
Separate the lettuce leaves to make 6 nice lettuce 'cups' or bowls
Place the washed and dried bean sprouts evenly inside of each of the 6 lettuce cups
Finely dice the carrot, onion, ginger, chilli, water chestnuts and garlic
Chop the spring onions finely
Heat the sesame oil over medium-heat heat in a large wok
Add the pork, carrot, onion, ginger, chilli and garlic and sautee until the meat is browned
Add 3 tbsp of soy and 3 tbsp of oyster sauce and cook until there is very little liquid in the bottom of the wok
Spoon the pork mixture evenly into the 6 lettuce cups, over the bean sprouts
Sprinkle with the spring onions
Combine the remaining soy sauce with the hoisin and drizzle over the pork mixture.