Asian Lettuce Wraps

I’m pretty sure the slow cooker is one of the absolute best culinary inventions. Throw a bunch of things into a pot, let it simmer all day, and come home to a fragrant kitchen and perfectly cooked meal.

I particularly like slow-cooking meats, since it allows you to buy tougher (and therefore cheaper) cuts and turn it into something just as, if not more, delicious as the more expensive cuts.

This particular recipe started with spying some napa cabbage at the farmer’s market. Just the sight of it brought back memories of one college spring break evening during which a friend made a whole group of us a veritable feast of asian lettuce wraps. I can’t remember all of the fixings, but I do remember how fun it was to add a bit of this and a bit of that to your lettuce wrap, each time ending up with a different combination of flavors.

This humble head of cabbage turned into a veritable feast, aided in no small part by my slow cooker. I decided to share the bounty, but you could just as easily make this on Sunday afternoon and enjoy it for lunch or dinner all week long.

The marinade below was inspired by this recipe, although I substituted brisket for the more expensive short ribs.


3 medium carrots

1 bunch (7-10) radishes

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1.75 lbs beef brisket

salt and pepper

2 cloves garlic

1 inch fresh ginger

2 tbsp thai red chili paste

1 cup Thai red chili sauce

1/2 cup soy sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 cup short-grain white rice


Thinly slice carrots and radishes, using a mandolin if you have one.

Place in wide, shallow containers. Pour half of the apple cider vinegar into each container, then gently shake contents to distribute the vinegar amongst the vegetable sliced. Let sit in fridge for at least one hour.

After quick-pickling

After quick-pickling


Heat a cast iron skillet. Once drops of water sizzle in the pan, sprinkle the brisket with salt and pepper on both sides and sear in the cast iron skillet for 1 minute on each side. Add to crock pot base.

Peel and mince garlic and ginger, measure out red chile paste.

In a small bowl, mix the ginger, garlic, and red chile paste with the additional marinade ingredients (Thai red chili sauce,  soy sauce, and fish sauce). Pour sauce over brisket, turning the meat a few times to ensure it is evenly coated. 

Cover and cook on high 5-6 hours or low 8 hours. The exterior will have a semi-hard glaze and the interior will shred easily with a fork.

Remove the large pieces of fat, then shred the meat and set aside.

About 45 minutes before the brisket finishes, start the rice. Rinse in several changes of cold water, rubbing the grains between your fingers. Add to a pot with just under 2 cups of cold water, bring to a boil, and then simmer until the water has been completely absorbed, approximately 25 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork, then let sit covered for 10-15 minutes.

Cut the bottom 1/3 off of each cabbage leaf then remove marinated carrots and radishes from their containers.

Assemble lettuce wraps and enjoy!


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