These lettuce wraps call for pork belly (Chef Izard also likes to use goat belly), but slab bacon will work nicely as well. Very finely grated garlic is best, so use a microplane if possible. The fish-sauce aïoli is easy to make but optional.
Korean Lettuce Wraps
For the kimchi sauce
- 3 Tbs. gochujang chili paste (Korean hot pepper paste)
- 3 Tbs. yellow miso (Korean soybean paste)
- 3 Tbs. mirin
- 1 large clove garlic, grated
- 1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
For the fish sauce aïoli (optional)
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tsp. fish sauce
For the fried rice balls
- 1 cup uncooked jasmine rice
- 3 cups plus 1 Tbs. vegetable oil
- 1/4 lb. 80% lean ground beef
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
- 2 Tbs. soy sauce
For the pork belly
- 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
- 1 lb. pork belly, sliced 1/4 inch thick and 4 to 5 inches long (about 16 pieces)
- 16 whole green or red leaf lettuce leaves
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, large leaves torn
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Make the kimchi sauce
- In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Set aside.
Make the fish sauce aïoli
- In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise and the fish sauce. Set aside.
Cook the fried rice balls
- Cook the rice according to the package directions until tender. Uncover the pot and fluff the rice with a fork and set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 Tbs. of the vegetable oil until shimmering. Add the beef, season with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper, and cook until it is browned, breaking the meat up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, about 4 minutes. Add the cooked beef and any accumulated fat to the rice along with the lime juice and soy sauce. Season to taste with additional soy sauce and mix well.
- Using wet hands, form the rice mixture into 1-1/2-inch balls, squeezing tightly so the rice balls hold their shape, and put on a plate.
- Heat the remaining 3 cups oil in a 4-quart saucepan until a deep-fry or candy thermometer registers 350°F. Add the rice balls in batches of about 4 and cook, turning occasionally with a slotted spoon or skimmer until they are golden brown and crispy, about 2 minutes. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
Cook the pork belly
- In a 12-inch skillet heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add half of the pork belly pieces in a single layer and cook until golden and crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to another plate lined with paper towels. Pour out all but 2 Tbs. of oil in the pan and repeat with the remaining pork belly slices.
- Arrange the lettuce leaves on a large serving platter. Lightly spread the fish sauce aïoli on each leaf, if using. Gently crumble a rice ball in your hand and spread over a leaf; repeat with the rest of the leaves. Evenly distribute the mint and cilantro and top with one piece of pork belly on each leaf. Spread the kimchi sauce on top of each pork belly piece. Serve with the remaining whole rice balls on the platter with the lettuce wraps. Roll the filling in the lettuce leaves to eat.