Ellen Britt - A Teenage Foodie who Explores Dinner, Dessert and Salad Ideas
Cooking Time: 50 minutes
Prep Time: 15 to 20 minutes
2 bundles of Vermacelli rice noodles for deep frying (photo included in the recipe)
1 cup of chopped oyster mushrooms
1 cup of white chopped mushrooms – also called button mushrooms
½ a large white onion
3 cloves of fresh garlic
1 heaping cup of diced freshwater chestnuts
1 9 oz package of frozen chopped spinach (fresh can also be used)
1 pound of lean ground pork
2 tbsp of sesame oil
¼ cup dark soy sauce
½ cup green onions
1 head of Boston lettuce
1 litre of cooking oil for deep frying
Heating the Oil
Heat the cooking oil in a large pot using a portable cooking element. The element needs to get very hot so that the oil can reach a temperature of 400 F. A home-based deep fryer will not get hot enough for this recipe. The advantage of a portable cooking element is that it can be place outside our house – usually on the balcony during the summer. If you do this recipe in your kitchen, it will make a huge mess and it will smell like cooking oil for a couple of days. Not very pleasant! Because this recipe is so good my parents purchased the cooking element just for making this meal. Also be sure to keep your eye on the oil as it heats. We make sure to keep the lid off the cooking pot while heating for safety reasons.
Pork and Vegetable Mixture
While the oil is heating cook and drain the water from the frozen spinach and set aside.
Next peel and chop the water chestnuts. This is a bit of a job but well worth the effort. I usually do this in advance as it is my least favorite thing to do. You can buy canned water chestnuts, but they are not nearly as good. This is the secret ingredient for this recipe and worth the effort.
Chop the mushrooms and ½ of one large white onion. Note: ½ a large onion comes to about 1 cup.
Add 2 tbsp of sesame oil to the frying pan and start to cook the mushrooms until tender, then add the onions and garlic and stir regularly over medium heat. The onions should be shimmering when done. I like my mushrooms to be well cooked, but you can cook them for a shorter time depending on your palette.
Add the ground pork to the mushroom & onion mixture and stir until cooked. Then add the cooked spinach and blend into the meat mixture. I add the soy sauce, hoisin sauce and water chestnuts at the end and continue cooking until thoroughly mixed. Once cooked set aside.
Wash your head of lettuce and carefully separate the individual leaves. You want your leaves to act as a small cup for your pork and noodles. It’s easier to separate if you remove the stem of the lettuce first. It’s kinda like tearing out the heart of your lettuce which makes it a lot easier to separate the individual leaves.
Next is the fun part! Separate all the noodles in your 2 bundles into separate strands and put into a large bowl. Noodles will going flying everywhere but the majority will land in your bowl. Once your oil is hot you are ready to cook your noodles. Test the oil first by dropping in a noodle. It should immediately puff up and be white in colour. You need to work quickly which means having an extra bowl for your cooked noodles next to the pot of hot oil. You also need long tongs for turning the noodles in the oil and removing them quickly. They only take a second to cook – so it’s basically in and out of the oil. It’s important to do this in small batches. By the time you get your noodles to the table they will not be hot but rather room temperature which is perfect for being wrapped in a lettuce leaf. You can cook these in advance, but they are not as good as when done at the time of your meal because the oil tends to soak into the noodles if left sitting.
Note: The temperature of oil is very important. If the temperature is too low your noodles will puff up slowly and absorb the oil. Your noodles must puff up in an instant or the oil is not hot enough. 400 F works well.
Once cooked put your cooked noodles into a nice serving bowl. Your meat mixture is put into another bowl with lettuce leaves on a plate. You are now ready to eat! Fill your lettuce leaf with white crunchy noodles then place a spoonful of meat on top of the noddle’s and wrap it all into the lettuce leaf!! It’s like a leafy taco. We use this as our main dinner, but it can be served as an appetizer. If served as an appetizer you will get a lot more than 6 servings.
Pro Tip: This is a very messy meal, but it is also my favorite. Some bits of crunchy noodles will for sure land on the floor. And there will be noodles all over your table. It’s impossible to control this delicious feast as the noodles have a mind of their own. Just be prepared for a family clean up after dinner.
This recipe is the absolute best! But I have to worn you it is messy but well worth it. It's fun to make and even more fun to eat.
These are the secret ingredient for this meal. They add a wonderful crunch. Sadly they are not always available in the Asian supermarkets. If you can't find them a good substitute is Kohlrabi which is also a crispy and fresh tasting vegetable.
Its a bit fussy peeling water chestnuts but they are worth it! If I am peeling them in advance I put them in cold water until ready to chop.
I have found the 1/2 a large onion comes to about 1 cup. You can always add more.
I like to have more than one kind of mushroom in my dinners. For this recipe I have chosen oyster and white mushrooms but feel free to experiment.
Peel your garlic and then crush it with a garlic press.
Add your chopped mushrooms to a frying pan with 2 tbsp of sesame oil for flavor and to prevent sticking. I like my mushrooms well cooked so I start them in advance of the onions.
Cook until the onions start to shimmer over medium heat. Its at this stage I also add the garlic.
Cook over medium heat until the pork is fully cooked.
Mix the spinach into your pork mixture until thoroughly blended
The aromas are wonderful!!
Its at this stage I add the water chestnuts with the soy and hoisin sauce. You don't want to cook the water chestnuts too long as they should be crunchy. They only need to be heated.
I like to top off the pork mixture with chopped green onions for flavor and presentation.
Separate your lettuce into whole leaves trying not to break them. This takes practice but it helps if you fully remove the stem from the lettuce where the leaves attach. This way they peel off or separate a lot more easily.
This is the brand I used but there are many available
This is where things start to get messy.
You will find some of your strands try to make a "break for it" landing on the floor and counter.
This is the arrangement we use at home for this meal. If you cook this meal inside your kitchen, your kitchen and any rooms close by will smell of oil for days. Voice of experience talking.
Be careful when doing this recipe as the oil is very hot!!! Put your noodles in the pot carefully. Turn them over quickly using long tongs and then remove them immediately.
This is like science class where stuff happens like magic.
Making sure to get every single noodle. It takes concentration!! When I am finished with my oil I run it through a sieve or better yet - cheese cloth to remove any bits of noodles that are remaining. That way you can re-use your oil for other deep frying recipes.
Topping your pork with cut green onions adds a nice fresh color.
The noodles go in a separate bowl ready for assembly. This is total heaven!!
I load my lettuce leaf first with the fried rice noodles followed by the pork and water chestnuts. I like to keep to keep a bowl of soy sauce on the side although there is plenty already in your stir fry . Seriously Delicious!
Its like a taco wrap only using lettuce. Get ready for the noodles to go everywhere!! Its a wonderful mess!
We grow pansies on our balcony for presentation and adding a bit of a peppery taste to our meals.
What could be better!