This is a recipe I was obsessed with when I still ate meat. It used to be ‘crispy pork with lemongrass and chili’ – and now it’s ‘delicious fake-meat with lemongrass and chili’. The fake mince does exactly what the pork mince should – acts as a protein-rich flavour sponge for the rich and spicy sauce it’s drenched in.
Every carnivore I’ve fed it to has genuinely loved it, and I’m a really shit cook, which means it’s nigh impossible to fuck up.
The original recipe came from one of my favourite journalists in the world, Esther Walker, who used to have a brilliant blog all about what a shit cook she was, until she accidentally became a really good cook and had to abandon it.
It still exists here, and I’d highly recommend reading it. Especially if you are having an awful day. It’s the best sort of gripping, self-depreciating British humour writing out there. Cheering, easy to read but also clever.
Anyway, back to the recipe. Basically, it ends up as this sort of fragrant, salty, slightly spicy, exotic-tasting faux mince which you wrap up in crunchy lettuce cups. My meat-eating neighbour affectionately calls them ‘lettuce worms’. It’s a crowd-pleaser. It’s substantial. It won’t make you fat. There are no downsides to it.
Spicy Lettuce Worms
Feeds eight as a starter, or four for a proper meal
5 tablespoons soy sauce
Juice of 3 limes
2.5 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
2 packs of Fry’s Meat-Free Frozen Mince (or whatever brand you prefer, this is what I use)
2 lemon grass stalks, as finely chopped as you can get it
1 onion, chopped
3 spring onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 Jalapeno peppers, de-seeded and finely chopped (use as much as you like depending on how spicy you like your food)
You’ll also need a head of iceberg lettuce, and some roughly chopped coriander to sprinkle over the finished dish. I happen to despise coriander so I banned it from the recipe, but it’s supposed to be the suitable garnish.
- Add the sauce ingredients to a large mug, whisk together with a fork and set aside.
- Cook the frozen mince and normal onions (not the spring onions) together over a medium heat.
- Break up any large lumps of mince and keep sizzling until it’s all cooked through and the mince is as brown as you can get it without burning the crap out of it.
- Esther’s recipe implies that the mince should end up ‘crispy and golden’ but in this case, it won’t because it’s not pig. It will be brown, tender and slightly charred. Sounds gross but stay with me.
- Add in the lemongrass and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Stir in your sauce, spring onions and a few jolts of Tabasco (optional) and cook for another 2 minutes.
- As Esther suggests, you can cook it for a further 5-7 minutes if you want the garlic to be less scary. Personally I’m a fan of scary garlic.
- If you feel you need to, add in some more soy sauce, very gradually, so you don’t totally screw the whole thing up.
- Then transfer the mince to a serving dish and eat by scooping little spoonfuls into a lettuce leaf and wrapping them into parcels.
I’ve actually doubled the quantities of the original recipe simply because it’s so ridiculously delicious that you’ll have it for dinner and then want it again for lunch the next day, and the next day, until it’s all gone, at which point you’ll be sad. It keeps well, you just microwave a portion of the worms and eat the same way.
Here are two happy pigs who say thank you for not using them in the recipe…