Away from Home
In Vietnamese cuisine, tender lettuce leaves often serve as wrappers for shrimp and other protein foods (tofu, scallops) and for fresh vegetables, much like wonton wrappers do for Chinese spring (egg) rolls, and tortillas do for Mexican soft tacos. Because lettuce rolls can be assembled at the table, they’re a fun, flavorful and nourishing appetizer, light lunch or snack that every age — kids, too — can prepare at the family table.
12 ounces cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup raw bean sprouts *
2 heads Boston lettuce, separated in leaves
1 medium carrot, cut in 1-inch matchsticks **
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup finely-chopped unsalted peanuts
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon less-sodium soy sauce or fish sauce ***
2 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar or white vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons shredded carrots **
Before you begin: Wash your hands.
- Cut shrimp in half lengthwise.
- Rinse bean sprouts under cold water. Fill a saucepan with water (enough to cover sprouts); bring to a boil. Add sprouts to water, and blanch for about 3 minutes. Drain and plunge sprouts in cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain; pat sprouts dry with paper towels.
- To make the sauce, combine lime juice, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Whisk to blend ingredients and dissolve the sugar. Add the grated carrots. Serve sauce at room temperature.
- To serve, arrange lettuce leaves, shrimp, bean sprouts, carrot, green onions, cilantro, mint and peanuts on a large serving plate. Pour dipping sauce into a small bowl.
- Assemble lettuce rolls at the table. To make each lettuce roll, place bean sprouts on one end of a lettuce leaf. Top with shrimp, then top with other ingredients as desired. Drizzle dipping sauce over shrimp and vegetables.
- Fold the sides of the lettuce leaf, then roll tightly.
* Note: Raw bean sprouts are not advised for those at high risk for foodborne illness, including pregnant women, young children, older adults and those with weakened immune systems. Canned bean sprouts (drained) or cooked rice noodles can be used in place of blanched, raw bean sprouts.
** Tip: Shred two tablespoons carrot from a larger carrot for the rolls to use in the sauce.
*** Asian fish sauce, called nam pla, is the pungent condiment from salted, fermented fish, which gives this Vietnamese sauce its characteristic flavor. Because fish sauce is very high in sodium, this chili dipping sauce is made with light soy sauce.
Calories: 200; Calories from fat: 60; Total fat: 6g; Saturated fat: 1g; Trans fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 130mg; Sodium 300mg; Total carbohydrate: 15g; Dietary fiber: 4g; Sugars: 5g; Protein: 23g
Roberta Duyff, MS, RD, FAND, is author of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food and Nutrition Guide and 365 Days of Healthy Eating.
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