Years ago, we moved from our home in Switzerland to England. Among the mixed emotions, one standout was a relief to live again in an English-language culture.
While I can write at length about our bumbling and surprisingly foreign experience settling into U.K. life, I will stay on the topic of language. After all, it was one of the perks of this international move, and the excuse we used to propel ourselves to a remote corner of southeast England in our well-intentioned quest to blend in. After all, we were fluent in the local language — we only missed a sturdy pair of wellies.
So, after arrival in London and a brief rental experience, we moved to a small provincial hamlet on the edge of the south coast, where we purchased a rambling, feng shui-challenged barn renovation with distant views to the Isle of Wight. Suddenly, we found ourselves feeling quite foreign with a steep learning curve before us. Among many of our adjustments, we were about to experience a crash course in British English.
We quickly adjusted to referring to the car boot (not trunk) and clothing articles such as knickers, jumpers and trainers. Perhaps more important, we awkwardly learned to never, ever, compliment someone on their pants (blush), for they are trousers. Our written word adjusted, as well, to include u’s and t’s (neighbour, favourite, learnt, burnt). The letter “z” became “zed” and was often substituted with an “s,” as in finalise and civilised.
The language differences also extended to food terminology. Take, for example, the notion of tea. If your child was invited home by a classmate for tea one day, rest assured your precious 4-year-old would not be served a scalding cup of Earl Grey. Most likely, he would be supplied with an early supper served to children; beans on toast is a favorite.
Or, if you were invited to a neighbor’s home for dinner and asked to bring a pudding, not to worry as to whether you should recreate a butterscotch pudding recipe from your childhood or up the ante with a posh chocolate mousse. Pudding, you see, is a synonym for dessert in British English, so you would be free to go big and whip up a cake or trifle.
Which brings me to one of my favorite descriptive words pertaining to food in British English: moreish. When I first heard it, I pictured long banquet tables of Arab moors digging into a sumptuous feast. I quickly learned that the word is more-ish, and it applies to a dish or food you simply cannot stop eating. It’s so delicious, you want more.
And moreish is what I was thinking when I wrote this recipe. While Asia is far from England, these spiced Asian pork lettuce wraps are indeed moreish. They are crisp and juicy, laced with ginger and spice. Better yet, you must eat them with your hands, which is a fun, interactive and dribbly affair, and seems to make them taste even better. So, tuck in and enjoy these little bites. One will certainly not be enough.
Asian Pork Meatball Lettuce Wraps
Active time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour, plus chilling time
Yield: Makes 18 meatballs
1 1/2 pounds ground pork (turkey may be substituted)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons Panko breadcrumbs
1 scallion, finely chopped, green ends reserved for the rice
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup basmati or jasmine rice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small red jalapeno chile pepper, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sweet chile sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint leaves
2 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
Vegetable oil for pan frying
Little gem or butter lettuce leaves for wrapping
Asian hot sauce, such as Sriracha
Combine all the meatball ingredients in a bowl and gently mix to blend. Using a light hand, form the mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs. Place on a plate and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
Prepare the rice: Add the rice, 1 1/2 cups water and the salt to a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and remove the lid. Lay a kitchen towel over the saucepan and replace the lid. Let the rice steam for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and gently stir in the reserved green scallion ends, the chile pepper and sesame oil.
Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.
Cook the meatballs: Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs to the skillet without overcrowding, and gently press to slightly flatten. Cook until well browned on all sides and thoroughly cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes, turning as needed. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel and repeat with the remaining meatballs.
To serve, spoon a little rice into a lettuce leaf. Top with a meatball and drizzle with the sauce. Serve with additional hot sauce if desired.