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Vietnamese Pork Patties in Butter Lettuce “Buns” with Herbs and Dipping Sauce
Serves 4

My husband doesn’t like “hands-on” foods, but there are always a few things I can pull out to convince him otherwise. This dish is one of them. I love the spicy meat surrounded by fresh, tender butter lettuce, which you can find in abundance at the Farmers Market this time of year. And use whatever fresh ingredients strike your fancy to add to the filling: shiso, licorice mint, radishes, pea shoots, etc.

1 pound          ground pork
1 Tbsp            shallot, minced
2 cloves          garlic, minced
5 Tbsp            sugar, divided
5 Tbsp            fish sauce, divided
1                    lime, juice and zest
1 cup              cilantro, divided
1/4 cup           water
1/2 tsp            chile paste
1 head            butter lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
1 cup              cucumber, peeled and julienned
1 cup              carrot, peeled and julienned
1 cup              fresh basil
1 cup              fresh mint

Mix together pork, shallot, half the garlic, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, lime zest and 2 tablespoons minced cilantro in a large bowl. Chill for 10 minutes.

In another, smaller bowl, stir together water and remaining sugar until sugar is dissolved. Add remaining fish sauce, garlic, chile paste and lime juice and set aside.

Heat a grill to medium-high (or a large sauté pan). Working with roughly 1 rounded tablespoon at a time, form 16-20 oblong patties from the pork mixture. Grill or sauté for 3-4 minutes per side, until cooked through.

Serve in lettuce leaves with vegetables, herbs and dipping sauce.

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