We’re Cooking: Vietnamese Style Lettuce Wraps with Tofu, Fresh Herbs and Nam Jim Sauce

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There is a local Vietnamese spot in our neighborhood that Gary and I find ourselves at almost every week called Mot Hai Ba…incredibly fresh, delicious and healthy, especially perfect paired with one of their wines from the all French list.  Loving all their fresh flavors I wanted to make a little Thai/Vietnamese style dinner inspired by the large lettuce leaves and tons of fresh herbs they serve with dishes, like their incredible sizzling cake with shrimp, a light, pan fried crepe-like cake filled with bean sprouts and lots of shrimp and served with a Thai-style chile sauce and a Nam Jim style sauce.  I wasn’t ready to attempt the crepe, instead I simply marinated firm tofu (we like tofu, you could also use the marinade on shrimp, chicken, fish or even beef) in a spicy sauce and grilled it, created my own Nam Jim sauce and served it with a pile of lettuce leaves, cilantro, bean sprouts, purple basil and a lot of Siracha.  Paired with a chilled Rose from Provence and a bowl of steamed white rice and you are set for a delicious night.

Recipe:

Vietnamese Style Lettuce Wraps with Tofu, Fresh Herbs and Nam Jim Sauce
Ingredients:
For the wraps:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 green onion, chopped
1 small green or red chile, stem and seeds removed and minced or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon honey
1 bunch green leaf lettuce, core removed
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch green or purple basil
1 bunch chives
1 tablespoon canola oil
6 ounces extra firm tofu, cut into 1 inch chunks
6 Shitake mushrooms, stems removed and cut in half
Fresh bean sprouts
1 small carrot, cut into 2 inch matchsticks
1 small English cucumber, cut 4 inch long, thin matchsticks
Fresh white mushrooms, sliced (optional)

For the sauce:
1 small Thai green chile, stem removed and diced
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1 1/3 tablespoons raw sugar
Juice and zest of 1/2 lime
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
3 sprigs cilantro, stems separated from the leaves
1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks about 2 inches long

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Preparation:
For the tofu and wraps – add the first 8 ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk together to incorporate.  Add the mushrooms and tofu and toss gently to coat.  Set aside, but continue to toss gently to coat with the sauce for the next 20 minutes or so.  After 20 minutes add the canola oil to a grill pan or saute pan and heat to medium heat. Grill the tofu and mushrooms until a nice crust forms on the tofu and the mushrooms are cooked through. Pour the marinade into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil, reducing by 1/2 into a thick sauce. Pile the tofu and mushrooms into a bowl and drizzle with the reduced marinade sauce.  Pile the lettuce leaves, herbs, bean sprouts and Daikon into a separate bowl and serve with the dipping sauce by taking 1 leaf of lettuce, pile it high with the herbs, sprouts, radishes and a few pieces of mushroom and tofu.  Add a touch of Siracha if you like. Wrap the lettuce around the tofu and dip into the Nam Jim.

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For the dipping sauce – In a food processor add the first 7 ingredients, along with the cilantro stems, and process until smooth.  Pour into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes, then pour into a bowl and cool completely and then add the carrots and cilantro leaves for garnish. Set aside until you are ready to make your wraps.

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