Shrimp and Butter Lettuce Cups with Vietnamese Nuoc Cham

posted on: Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Time. Oh, if only we had more of it these days. And while I love to spend time in my kitchen whipping away meals fit for feasting, some days I get downright lazy (oh, yes) and need something quick, delicious, fresh, and totally satisfying.  Hello lettuce wraps sprinkled with tiger shrimp, fresh peanuts, and a medley of mint and herbs--all dipped in my favorite Vietnamese chili dipping sauce, nuoc cham. Yes, totally satisfying in my book.
Shrimp and Butter Lettuce Cups with Vietnamese Nuoc Cham | via Chandara Creative
Shrimp and Butter Lettuce Cups with Vietnamese Nuoc Cham | via Chandara Creative

Shrimp and Butter Lettuce Cups with Vietnamese Chili Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham)
Adapted from similar recipe courtesy of Sunset Magazine, July 2006

• 3/4 lbs shrimp, peeled & deveined
• 1/4 tsp black pepper
• 1/2 tsp salt (to boil water)
• 3 3/4 oz dried vermicelli noodles (Vietnamese bun rice noodles)
• 1 head Boston bib or butter lettuce, cores trimmed and leaves separated, washed, and drained
• 1 bunch fresh basil sprigs
• 1 bunch fresh mint sprigs
• 1 bunch fresh cilantro
• 1 cucumber, thinly sliced lengthwise
• 1/4 cup of dry roasted peanuts, coarsely crushed
• Optional: 1 cup Vietnamese bi or shredded pork skin with roasted rice powder (Recipe here)

Vietnamese Nuoc Cham Ingredients
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/4 cup fish sauce
• 2 tbs white granulated sugar
• 3 tbs fresh lime juice (or more to taste)
• 3 garlic cloves, minced or finely chopped
• 1-2 Thai or birdseye chili peppers (fresh or frozen)

  • Instructions:
  • 1. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil, then add in shrimp to cook. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until shrimp are bright pink and tails are curled, about 1-2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to a colander and let cool. 
  • 2. Put vermicelli rice noodles in a medium pot and cover with hot water. Cover pot and cook noodles, making sure to stir frequently so noodles do not stick to bottom of pot. Cook for at least 15 minutes, or until noodles are softened. Drain noodles and (using kitchen scissors) cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces. Cover and set aside in a colander to cool.
  • 3. Optional in lieu of noodles if you are carb-conscious: Prepare the Vietnamese Bi or Shredded Pork Skin Mixture (refer to this recipe)
  • 4. Prepare Vietnamese Nuoc Cham (see recipe below)
  • 5. To assemble wraps, arrange some noodles or pork skin in the middle of each lettuce leaf and top with 1 shrimp. Garnish with carrot, basil, cilantro, mint, and peanuts. Tuck up the bottom of each leaf and fold sides inward to eat. Drizzle with or dip into sauce.
Preparing the Vietnamese Nuoc Cham:
I prefer the simplicity and freshness of my nuoc cham sans the vinegar that similar recipes oftentimes call for, so I omit it and use more fresh lime juice to add that kick of acidity. And to save yourself more time, you can prepare a bottle of this sauce ahead of time and store it in your refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. 

1. In a small sauce pan, mix fish sauce, sugar, and water over medium heat and stir to combine. Bring sauce to just below boiling point, then set aside to cool. In a separate bowl, muddle garlic and lime juice and then add to cooled fish sauce mixture. Stir well to combine, top with fresh chili peppers, and transfer sauce to a small dipping bowl.  


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