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.
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.
Prepare the crispy noodles: Heat 3 to 4 inches of canola oil in a medium saucepan or high-sided skillet until 365 degrees F.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.