Shoestring Meals - Lazy sort-of Vietnamese lettuce wraps

02-10-2012, 02:23 AM
For the past couple days, I've been craving thai or viatnamese food, but we're at the tight end of the month (payday is next week), so grocery shopping wasn't really an option. So, I threw this together from the pantry.

It's a recipe that doesn't require exact measurements and can be made as easily for one person as for a dozen.

Viatnamese dipping sauce, Nuoc Cham (bottled or home made), or reasonable facsimile (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup per person, plus more for dipping if desired - recipe at the bottom).

TVP granules (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup per person)

Washed and trimmed (but left whole) romaine lettuce leaves (4 or more leaves per person).

Optional ingredients (any, all, or none of the following):
leftover cooked brown or wild rice, cilantro, mint leaves, thai basil, bean sprouts thinly sliced or finely diced veggies such as carrots, green onions, snow or snap pea pods, bell pepper...)

Soak the tvp in about the same volume of Nuoc Cham (so if you use one cup of tvp, use just at least 1 cup of Nuoc Cham - a smidge more is fine if you want a moister filling. Exact proportions aren't important).

You can let the mixture sit on the counter while you prepare the other ingredients or you can make the tvp mixture ahead of time and put it in the fridge. It has to sit at least 10 minutes for the the tvp to soften as it reconstitutes (you don't want it crunchy - well maybe you do, I didn't).

The tvp mixture (and the rice) can be heated in a microwave or in a skillet if you want to. I ate mine cold, and they were very good.

To eat

Spoon a tablespoon or two of tvp mixture onto the lettuce leaf (rib side down, so that the lettuce forms a little boat, and you're filling the boat like you would a taco). Add a tablespoon rice and any other ingredients you want. Fold and eat like a taco.

Nuoc Cham Recipe

I didn't have all of the ingredients listed, so I left out or substituted for what I didn't have. I left out the lime juice and increased the rice vinegar ot 1/4 cup, and I substituted a squirt of hot sauce for the bird peppers, and a pinch of garlic powder for the fresh garlic.

1 clove garlic, chopped
1 birds eye chili, chopped
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
juice of one lime
1-2 tablespoons sugar or artificial sweetener to taste (I use Splenda)

You can adjust the proportion of ingredients any way you wish, so you can adjust the sweetness, sourness, and fishiness of the sauce by mixing the ingredients to your own tastes.

02-12-2012, 09:56 PM
Sounds yummy, Kaplods!

Note to self - add TVP and fish sauce to grocery list. :)

02-12-2012, 10:43 PM
I ended up getting three lunches out of the batch (about 1/2 to 1/3 cup of both the dry tvp and the dipping sauce), and the flavor got better each day.

The first day, there was still a bit of "soy" flavor to the tvp (not bad unless you hate soy) but over the next two days, the soyness disipated and the flavor was deeper. I think the texture improved too).

Usually when I cook with tvp, I use it with ground meat, so that it absorbs meat flavor (hubby doesn't like the taste of "straight" soy). Not having the meat on hand (and not wanting to do any actual cooking) I sort of expected this to be edible, but not impressive. I was surprised the first day (that it was so good) and stunned the next two days when it was even better.

I didn't have any of the garnishes I usually use when I make similar lettuce wraps (with meat or tvp/meat mixtures), and it was very good with just the tvp mixture and some leftover rice. I may still make the real meat or meat/tvp mix variety occasionally, but with this version being a dish that can be put together in 10 minutes or less, with no cooking - I think I'll just make this version most of the time.

02-12-2012, 11:52 PM
I haven't had TVP since I was a kid (and my aunt sold Amway, haha), but I liked it then, and I like tofu, so I think I'll like it even the first day. I've never really known what to do with it, so I've never cooked with it before. Thanks for sharing!

02-18-2012, 02:22 PM
Holy salt bomb, Batman!

I did not look at the label, and did not know fish sauce is so salty. It tasted kinda salty when I ate it. I woke up the next morning super thirsty and 3 pounds heavier. :dizzy::dizzy::dizzy: It took drinking almost 200 ounces of water yesterday, but I flushed it all out. :p

I'll probably make it again, but with a LOT less fish sauce, and some ginger added in.

03-13-2012, 12:43 AM
Yes, fish sauce is quite high in sodium, and the amount/concentration varies tremendously from brand to brand. There are some fish sauces that are so salty they will actually crystalize in the bottle, especially around the cap (to the point you may have to remove the cap and rinse it so that you can the liquid to come out of the hole in the top).

I have a lower tolerance for saltiness than most folks, as I don't have much of a "salt tooth" at all, so I usually buy the lowest sodium brand I can find, or if I can't find my usual brand, I'll buy a stronger one, but will dilute it more with nonsalty liquid ingredients like unseasoned vinegar or water.

I'm lucky that (except for temporary water rentention) I don't have to worry about salt intake very much. In fact, I actually tend toward too-low sodium levels because of my tendency to not eat salt and my blood pressure medication. I'm one of the very few people on the planet whose doctors occasionally will encourage to eat a little extra sodium when my blood levels get low enough (I even had to take sodium supplements before surgery once, and have my sodium levels tested every quarter).