Spicy Minced Pork in Lettuce Cups

Our trip to Costa Rica is T-minus 32 days. We have to conquer 2 volcanoes, climb a mountain at 3800m (12,467 ft. for my fellow Americans), survive in the rainforest and dive 20m down into the ocean. So yeah, we’re remotely trying to eat healthy and shape up.

Diets schmiets is what I say. I get awfully grumpy if I’m deprived of food. Many, many moons ago I tried the crazed lemonade detox diet and I lasted a whopping ONE day. Restrained eating is simply not my cup of tea. Instead, we prefer to wake up for our early morning gym session just as the last bar in Manhattan is closing shop.

But on rare occasions we do feel the urge to slightly alter our eating habits and turn up the notch on our activity level. Needless to say, our upcoming adventure is the catalyst. I need to be in tip top shape if I want to outrun the viper that’s slithering after me… or do they just hang in trees, fall on you and clamp their venomous fangs into your carotid?!?! Either way, I don’t want to be the schmuck that can’t carry her own 20-lb. backpack up Costa Rica’s highest peak.

Minced meat with lettuce cups. Tasty and carb-free. Yes, I did use pork when I could’ve used chicken or turkey. But cut me some slack, I’m already eating out of lettuce leaves! Check out Sook’s recipe from My Fabulous Recipes where she cooks up a delicious ground turkey version. Thanks for the inspiration Sook!


1 head of lettuce (leaves separated and washed)
1 lb. ground pork
1/2 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup water chestnuts, diced
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp mirin
2 dried chili pepper, crumbled into small pieces
cilantro (for garnish)
salt & pepper to taste
  1. In a large skillet, saute onions with canola oil. When the onions start to sweat, add garlic and dried chili. Saute for another 3 minutes.
  2. Next, add ground pork and saute until thoroughly cooked. Add hoisin sauce, oyster sauce and mirin. Season with salt & pepper. Saute for another 5 mintues. Garnish with cilantro and serve with lettuce cups. Serves 4 people for appetizers.

28 Responses to “Spicy Minced Pork in Lettuce Cups”

  • Larry Says:

    Awesome recipe! Simple, flavorful, healthy. If I didn’t have some ahi steaks thawing, I’d make it tonight. But tomorrow, it’s what’s for dinner!

  • David Says:

    This is awesome, lettuce goes good with just about anything especially minced pork yep!

  • Dhale Says:

    @Larry: I love meals that I can throw together in a jiffy. How about I trade you some lettuce cups for your ahi steaks? ‘)

  • Dhale Says:

    @David: The lettuce really does add a refreshing quality to the dish. We’ve been eating this several times a week now!

  • Laura Says:

    I’m suffering post envy at the moment for two reasons… one, that I am not equipped to whip this up right this moment, and two that you have the most amazing lighting and color through your photos. Great post!
    -Laura :)

  • penny aka jeroxie Says:

    I like this. reminds me san choi bao!

  • Sook @ My Fabulous Recipes Says:

    I’m so glad that you liked this recipe. Dont worry about using pork because the original recipe I had actually called for pork. I’m sure it tastes great! :) Your presentation of the dish is so beautiful as always. Love it!

  • Divina Says:

    This is really refreshing and flavorful. I used to have it with duck but pork would be great too. Beautiful photos.

  • Dhale Says:

    @Laura: Awww thanks! I’ve always been struggling with my lighting situation since I prefer using natural light which is virtually impossible in our tiny apartment! But I’ve adapted to the circumstances and thanks to your comment, I feel like it’s not so terrible :)

    Hopefully you’ll have these ingredients soon in your refrigerator because it’s such a refreshing meal and easy to whip up!

  • Joy Says:

    I love lettuce cups, I could seriously eat this whole dish to myself! I can’t believe you are going to climb mountains and battle anacondas/vipers in Costa Rica, why are you such a rock star? Hahaha I laughed when I read you tried the lemon detox because SO DID I— that stuff tasted like caca for sure. I always say life is too short for diets :)

  • Dhale Says:

    @Jeroxie: I’ve never heard of san choi bao… do you have a recipe for it? I’d love to check it out!

  • Dhale Says:

    @Sook: Thanks! I’ve always had it at chinese restaurants but never bothered to make it myself. It’s such a simple recipe too! We’re actually having it for dinner this week again :)

  • Dhale Says:

    @Divina: OMG the duck version sounds soooo good… we’re huge fans of duck around here. I’ll have to try it out soon. Do you mince the duck?

  • Dhale Says:

    @Joy: Did you know that Whole Foods sells that lemonade mixture for the detox diet? I saw it there the other day. So weird. I think I would pass out by the second day if all I had was lemonade. The taste wasn’t so terrible though… it would have been better on the rocks with a splash of vodka while I nibble away on some tapas though 😉

    When we go on “vacation” we always need a vacation afterwards cuz we’re so wiped from all the activities. But it’s so much fun! Except for the snakes in the rainforest part. I don’t care how hot it is in the jungle…I’m wearing pants and a turtleneck!

  • Mimi Says:

    I saw this on Sook’s blog and thought it looked pretty darn good. I need to pick some lettuce and get going on this one.

  • ravenouscouple Says:

    this reminds us of the Thai dish Larb…btw, in regards to your lighting situation, have you adapted by using a diffuser or some other set up?

  • Trissa Says:

    Oh my – good luck on your journey… keep safe. Your pork and lettuce cups are divine.

  • elizabeth @ The Manhattan [food] Project Says:

    This looks delightful, and perfect for filing in the “something different but easy” meal category for the next time I’m craving something different, but delicious.

  • Dhale Says:

    @Mimi: It’s such an easy meal. We just had it last night again :)

  • Dhale Says:

    @Ravenous: I LOVE LOVE LOVE larb! I’ve never tried making it before but I think I’m going to give it a shot next week.

    Nothing new with the lighting situation. I still use a simple daylight balance bulb on a cord. Haven’t invested in a diffuser either and I’ll probably hold off until we move to a bigger apartment.

  • Dhale Says:

    @Trissa: Thank you! It’s now T-minus 30 days and I’m growing more excited each day. Can’t wait!

  • Dhale Says:

    @Elizabeth: It’s so easy that we just had it again last night! It took me less than 30 minutes to whip it up!

  • MaryMoh Says:

    Wow….looks very delicious. I can have that for lunch with some pan fried sweet potatoes.

  • Dhale Says:

    @Mary: Mmmmm pan fried sweet potatoes. My mom used to make those with some brown sugar sprinkled on it. **drool**

  • Anna Says:

    I love this idea of putting delicious fillings inside lettuce leaves. Your picture makes it mouth watering.

  • Dhale @ Culinary Musings Says:

    @Anna: We love it so much around here that we’ve been having this meal almost every week! It’s refreshing and healthy!

  • Jill Cleanse the Liver Says:

    I hope your trip was as amazing as this recipe, cooked it up last night, it was REALLY good!

  • Dhale @ Culinary Musings Says:

    @Jill: I always get giddy and blush when someone tells me they actually tried my recipe 😉 Glad you enjoyed it! We had an amazing time and we’re having a tough time readjusting to this 34 degree weather :(

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