Sweet, spicy, pungent and sour are the hallmarks of Thai cooking. In this salad created in Tasting Table's Test Kitchen, we hit all those notes. Ground pork is briefly marinated in lime juice before cooking off in a skillet with a punchy Thai vinaigrette made from fish sauce, fresh chiles, brown sugar, lime juice and dried makrut (kaffir) lime leaf, as well as a bevy of fresh herbs. You can enjoy the salad with a fork and knife, using tender Bibb lettuce leaves as a soft bed for the caramelized pork, or wrap the pork salad within larger Bibb leaves for a more hands-on approach. All salads should be so flexible.
Thai Pork Salad with Fresh Herbs
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
1 pound ground pork
½ cup fresh lime juice, divided, plus 1 lime sliced into wedges
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 medium shallots, finely chopped, divided
1 Thai red chile or small Serrano chile--halved, seeded and finely chopped
3 makrut (kaffir) lime leaves, very thinly sliced, or 2 teaspoons fresh lime zest
¼ cup finely chopped basil, plus extra for serving
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro, plus extra for serving
¼ cup finely chopped mint, plus extra for serving
2 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped lemongrass
2 heads Boston Bibb lettuce, roughly torn
4 radishes--thinly sliced, stacked and thinly sliced into matchsticks
3 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced on a bias
¼ cup roasted, salted peanuts, roughly chopped
1. To a medium bowl, add the ground pork and ¼ cup of the lime juice; set aside to marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining ¼ cup of the lime juice, the fish sauce, brown sugar, half of the chopped shallots, the chile, lime leaves, ¼ cup chopped basil, ¼ cup chopped cilantro and ¼ cup chopped mint. Set the sauce aside.
3. In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, add the oil and heat it until it shimmers, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the remaining half of the chopped shallots and the lemongrass and cook until fragrant and golden-brown, about 30 seconds. Add the ground pork, breaking up the large pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pork is slightly browned and starting to stick to the bottom of the skillet, about 8 minutes. Add ½ cup of the sauce to the skillet, stirring and scraping the browned bits from the bottom and sides of the pan, and simmer until the sauce is slightly reduced, 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Divide the lettuce among 4 plates. Top with some of the pork mixture and drizzle with some of the remaining sauce. Serve sprinkled with the radishes, scallions, basil, cilantro, mint and roasted peanuts. Serve with the lime wedges.