Ground Pork, Water Chestnuts and Crispy Noodle Lettuce Cups

Lettuce cups with savory, sweet pork and crunchy noodles are a favorite in Chinese-American restaurants. They are also incredibly easy to cook at home! The new-to-some ingredient here is mushroom soy sauce. Most soy sauces are one-note salty and need supporting characters, like sugar, to balance them. They can also lack deep savoriness. Mushroom soy sauce is a smooth, rich and caramel-like sauce that really gives body and balance to a dish. Here, I like to make platters of the filling and lettuce separately for parties or just serve them individually prepared for a fancy starter or meal.
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 25 min
  • Active: 25 min
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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Ingredients

3 to 5 dried shiitake mushrooms

2 cups hot water

2 ounces dried rice vermicelli noodles

2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for frying

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

1 pound coarsely ground pork

1/2 onion, finely diced

1 (8-ounce) can whole water chestnuts, drained and diced

1/4 cup mushroom soy sauce

1/4 cup oyster sauce

2 tablespoons rice wine, such as Shaoxing wine

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

1 head butter or iceberg lettuce

2 scallions, thinly sliced

Directions

  1. Prepare the mushrooms: Soak the mushrooms in the hot water in a small heatproof bowl until reconstituted, about 20 minutes. Chop into small dice and reserve.
  2. Prepare the crispy noodles: Heat 3 to 4 inches of canola oil in a medium saucepan or high-sided skillet until 365 degrees F.
  3. Break up the vermicelli into 2 batches. Fry each batch, carefully flipping once about halfway through, until puffed, about 2 minutes; drain on paper towels. Reserve for garnish.
  4. Heat a 9- to 11-inch skillet over high heat for about a minute. Swirl in the 2 tablespoons oil to coat the bottom. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until browned, 20 to 30 seconds. Add the ground pork, press flat with a spatula and cook, undisturbed, until the bottom starts to brown. Break apart and press down to repeat the process until the pork is 60% browned.
  5. Stir in the onions, water chestnuts and mushrooms and cook, stirring, until the pork is about 90% cooked through and the pork mixture smells amazing, 1 to 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in the mushroom soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine and pepper and cook, continuing to work it all together, until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat while you prepare the lettuce.
  7. Cut the core out of the head of lettuce and discard, then cut the head in half through the core. Discard a few outer leaves until you pull out about a dozen nice leaves. Place those leaves on a large platter. Fill each lettuce cup with about 1/2 cup of the pork mixture then garnish with the scallions and about 1/4 cup of the crispy noodles on top. 
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