Sunday, July 25, 2010

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps with Noodles (aka Larb)


In case you haven't noticed yet, I am not a big meat eater.  Oh sure, I love a thick, juicy steak, or a beautiful roasted chicken, and there really is nothing like biting into a huge burger with all the fixings; but, on the whole, I don't actually eat that much meat on a regular basis.  There are many days when I have yogurt and granola for lunch, maybe eggs for dinner, or possibly just a big bowl of veggies with couscous or a salad.  These meals might not be terribly exciting or always representative of my inner foodie, but they keep me fed, and are quick, easy, and healthy.  To keep a rounded diet, I get a lot of my protein from eggs, dairy, beans, cheese, and fish (not all at once, of course), and I love vegetables and fruits so I eat those all the time.       


Although I eat this way intentionally to be healthy, to save time, and to be easy on the wallet, I am well aware that this type of eating can sometimes seem a little rabbit-like, and is certainly always not suitable for feeding friends, family, or one hungry Norwegian boyfriend.  I think most of the world likes to eat well-balanced meals, usually including a vegetable, a starch, and of course, meat.  Plus, I personally really do want to eat meat: I want to cook it well, and and enjoy a variety of types of meats.  So it is this type of thinking that drives me to make impulse purchases like leg of lamb, or ribeye steak, or ground organic turkey... and then try to dream up some way to prepare it.



       

One of these impulse purchases was this lovely ground organic turkey; it is one of the more healthy types of meats to begin with, and the organic variety is even better.  I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it for the bargain price of $1.99!  A steal!  I bought it with no real plan or agenda, but I was sure I could work it into a dish that would showcase its flavor and maintain a healthy vibe. 

I thought of a couple of different options, but then my friend Steve mentioned a sort of meat salad that his mother used to make that had Asian flavors and fresh herbs.  Mmmm... I had never had anything like it, but his description sounded delicious!  The version he ate growing up used ground beef, but I was sure I could recreate something similar and just as good with turkey.    



Having never tasted this type of dish before, I was not really sure what to expect or exactly how to make it; Steve had listed off all the ingredients, but putting it together was really an experiment in balance.  Lots of lime, thin slivers of onion, extra flavor from cilantro and mint, and just the right amount of heat from the red pepper flakes.  And volia!  A wonderful meat-based dish that I felt worked perfectly to use my organic turkey.   

Steve mentioned that he used to eat this type of "salad" just as is, but I decided to have it with some rice noodles and lettuce leaves to make a wrap.  The whole thing was really delicious and a snap to throw together; the perfect kind of light, healthy dish that The Cilantropist loves.  


*So, it seems I made a traditional Thai or Indonesian-type dish without even realizing it!  I just adjusted the recipe title to reflect that fact that this is dish is traditionally called Larb, and is made with ground protein (thanks for the comments!). 


Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps with Noodles, (aka Larb)


1 1/4 lbs Organic ground turkey (or extra lean beef)
1/2 of a medium-sized red onion
Juice from 3 limes, about 4 tablespoons
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1/4 cup roughly chopped mint
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
Pinch of sugar
Butter lettuce leaves for serving
Rice noodles
Extra lime wedges (optional)


Heat a small amount of oil in a non-stick skillet.  Season the ground turkey to taste with salt and pepper, then brown turkey completely.  Drain off any excess fat and set aside to cool.  (I browned my turkey the day before and kept it in the fridge; this makes the whole dish really quick to throw together, and is also a good use for left over ground meat.) 


Meanwhile, slice the red onion very thinly, and place in a medium bowl with the lime juice.  Toss to cover the onion slices completely with the juice, as this will help to neutralize the bite of the raw onions.  Then add the cilantro, mint, red pepper flakes, garlic, soy sauce, and cooled turkey to the same bowl and toss well to combine.  Put the entire mixture in the fridge to marinate for at least one hour or overnight.  


To serve, cook a small amount of rice noodles according to package instructions (usually, soak in boiling water for about 3 minutes) and cool to room temperature.  Put some noodles and a few lettuce leaves on each plate, and top with ground turkey mixture.  Eat some of the turkey with the noodles, or use the lettuce to roll the turkey into a wrap.  Serve with a few extra lime wedges.   

38 comments:

  1. I love this idea. We've gone seriously meat-lite in the last year, too, and I'm always looking for ways to beef up (ha, ha) our meals without letting my husband starve. This is great for the hot summer we're having, too!

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  2. What a terrific dish. Healthy and tasty all wrapped into one great meal. This is a must make for me.

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  3. What a fresh and flavorful dish! It looks perfect for summer! I' glad you are getting your protein! ;)

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  4. What a refreshing dish ! We do meatless meals twice a week .

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  5. nice and healthy for sure. I think I need to eat more like you!

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  6. Lovely recipe, practical and delicious

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  7. This is great! My husband is meat addicted as well, so I love the idea of a light salad that will still keep the hubby happy.

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  8. Nice combination and looks so yummy! I've never think about add the noodles in the wrap before, now I need to try it!

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  9. Not a huge meat eater here either, not sure why? This looks tempting

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  10. 1. I made this recipe the not-so-healthy-way with ground beef, and it was wonderful for you red meat eaters
    2. I've yet to use ground turkey... not sure why! I must do this soon.

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  11. Where in the world did you find organic ground turkey for $1.99 a pound? Perhaps you should have bought them out of that as I've never seen it that cheap before!

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  12. It seems we have similar eating patterns. I have some lettuce ready to pick in the garden that would be perfect for your wraps - although I will be adding a few drizzles of chile fish sauce too. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  13. Perfect for Summer, love the wraps, specially with turkey...healthy and yet so tasty :-)

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  14. We're huge fans of wrapping items in lettuce since the hubster tries to avoid bread products (crazy, huh?). I've never tried ground turkey wraps but these look fabulous!

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  15. Gorgeous dish! I love what herbs and onions can do for a dish... who needs fat to flavor things? Was Steve's mom inspired by Thai larb? It's a ground protein (can be pork, beef, or fish) dish flavored with lots of herbs, ground rice powder, and enough heat to knock your socks off. If you want to compare, try the catfish larb at Sab-E-Lee in Linda Vista... totally, amazingly awesome.

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  16. I make something similar, but this looks really good! This is very similar to Laotian Larb as well, which I bet you would love if you could find it.

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  17. I personally like to see that meat seared more, darker and caramelized, but hey thats all looks! Taste is that matters

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  18. I recognized myself when you said you sometimes have yogurt/granola for lunch and eggs for dinner, except it's oatmeal for midday for me! 8-)

    This dish is just the meal for a warm summer night - light, refreshing and yet satisfying. Thank you and Steve for sharing!

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  19. I make turkey meatballs and serve them similar to the way you do- in a lettuce wrap with some red onions, mint, and CILANTRO! Love the pictures!

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  20. Thanks for all the comments so far, much appreciated! :) Anyone that is wondering, you could absolutely make this dish with ground beef or ground pork (and apparently ground fish!) and it would still be fantastic!

    BB and moowiesqrd: thanks SO much for pointing out that this dish is actually Larb! Steve confirmed it, that is exactly what his mother said the dish is called. And I will definitely be checking out that restaurant in Linda Vista!

    Anonymous: I agree! I usually aim for cooking my meat a certain way, but skill and expertise in preparing meat is one area where I am still a little green. Any specific suggestions?

    Andra: great idea for turkey meatballs!

    Jen: I actually got the meat from the Ralphs supermarket near my home (a shocking find actually) and I did sort of buy them out. ;) Or at least I bought a lot; they had it in packages, so it wasn't even $1.99 a pound, but actually $1.99 for 1.25 pounds!

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  21. This looks great, thanks for a good recipe.

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  22. We ate SO MUCH of this last summer in Laos - there it's called laap. What a perfect summer meal - love it!

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  23. There's good ingredients and flavor combination in these wraps and I like that it's on a bed of noodles. Hubby and I would definitely enjoy this and hearty alternative to meats.

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  24. Despite my meat-heavy diet of late, I'm like you. I don't serve meat very often in an attempt to be more healthful. But sometimes it's nice to enjoy a good steak or lamb.

    Your lettuce wraps are beautiful. I actually cook my ground turkey in similar seasonings like you used for your dressing. Nice job. By the way, I finally responded to the award you gave me last month and mentioned you on my latest post. Thanks! :-)

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  25. larb is probably one of the few dishes I like with lettuce. I like raw veggie salads but not a fan of lettuce as such. This is however a perfect meat and lettuce salad.

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  26. I make something similar to this quite a bit in the summer. It's so light but filling at the same time.

    I'm right there with regarding lunch. It's pretty much whatever I can get my hands on that quick and easy. (usually mueslix and yogurt)

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  27. We wrapped hard cider marinated beef tips in Boston lettuce for a wine tasting and people went nuts!

    Very nice.

    Jason

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  28. I used to order something similar at a local restaurant when I was in the mood for something light and refreshing... and then they took it off the menu, which made me sad.
    Of course, now that I know how to make them at home, I'm happy again. Thanks for the recipe! :)

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  29. I don't really eat meat, but I love to check out meat recipes that seem unusual, and this one looks delicious, great job with the presentation!

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  30. Waw,..this platter of fine food looks so tasty & appetizing too!

    I also love all of the flavours you have used in here!

    Many greetings from Brussels, Belgium!

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  31. A nutritious and well-balanced rice noodle salad!

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  32. OK, I know I read this post and made a comment, but I am not here. So I can conclude either I dream your posts of I failed at the word verification:) This is a beautiful dish, and although I do not eat meat I do cook it, and these flavors are fantastically paired...

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  33. This is something elegant and refreshing.

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  34. This looks delicious! Im always looking for new ways to use that blasted ground turkey..LOL

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  35. Larb is awesome, and you win for best blog name ever.

    We've also made it with mushrooms!

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  36. Lizzie in Los AngelesAugust 16, 2011 at 8:10 PM

    Oooh yumsters! I try to avoid red meat (but agree with that juicy steak once in a while theory) and since The Official Honey and I totally agree on finely ground/chopped protein, red onion and all, this will be on the table tomorrow night here in Los Angeles. Delivery? Forget it!

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  37. Lizzie: Fantastic! I hope you enjoy it, and you are right - this is a great way to get a fill of protein but without the red meat. :)

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  38. Larb (also known as Laap in Lao) is also great with some crushed peanuts sprinkled on the top and a few beansprouts :)

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