½ cup sweet sticky Asian rice
2 pounds pork shoulder, coarsely ground, see notes below recipe
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup red onions sliced thin and cut in half
¼ cup fresh lime juice (about 1–2 limes)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
½ teaspoon coconut sugar
1–2 tablespoons garlic chili sauce, depending on how hot you like it
12 fresh basil leaves (if large, cut in half)
30 fresh mint leaves
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, no stems
1 green onion sliced
2 heads Boston lettuce
2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
2 cups shredded or thinly spiralized carrots
In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, place dry sweet rice and cook and toss for 10-15 minutes until golden and toasted. Remove from pan to a platter to cool. Be careful not to scorch.
Once cool, place in a small food processor and grind to a fine grain, about the size of a sesame seed. Set aside.
In a large sauce pan or pot (this is how it is traditionally cooked), place ground pork with no additional oils or fats. Cook to brown, about 10 minutes.
Add the vegetable stock and simmer on medium to evaporate for 15 minutes.
Add onion and cook for two minutes.
Add 4 tablespoons of the ground browned rice, and set the rest of the ground rice aside for garnish.
Remove from heat and let sit for one minute then stir in lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, garlic chili sauce, basil, mint, cilantro and green onions. Stir to combine and serve in lettuce cups with shredded red cabbage and carrots.
Sprinkle the remaining ground rice over each portion.
A few notes about ingredients:
Sweet rice is found in Asian markets, on line and in many well-stocked supermarkets. On its own, it cooks up sticky and is served with many Asian dishes.
To achieve the best texture, try to avoid pre-ground pork. Either grind it yourself at home if you have a stand mixer, or ask your butcher to coarsely grind it for you.
This dish typically uses an Asian shallot which can only be found in Asian markets. Instead red onion is a good substitute.
The original recipe we saw on television called for palm nectar which you can find online here, but we substituted coconut sugar (which is made from the same coconut palm) in our recipe. If that is not available, use granulated sugar.
Thai basil is usually found only available in Asian markets and has a strong flavor. We increased the amount using regular Italian basil which is less pungent.
In Laos where this dish originated, a local cilantro is used and is similar to the cilantro we can buy in the United States.
The traditional dish is served at room temperature but we preferred it warm.
Lastly, this meal is typically served as a salad or as an entrée with sweet sticky rice on the side. We opted to serve it in lettuce cups with red cabbage and shredded carrots to mimic the recipe we saw on television.