Reprinted with permission from Vietnamese Food Any Day: Simple Recipes for True, Fresh Flavors by Andrea Nguyen, Copyright ©2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.
For the beef patties:
- Brimming 1/3 cup unsalted roasted peanuts or cashews, finely chopped
- 3 medium green onions, white and green parts, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon Madras-style curry powder (preferably Sun brand)
- 3/4 teaspoon recently ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons water
- Brimming 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (about 85 percent lean)
For the nuoc cham:
- 2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar, or 3 to 4 tablespoons maple syrup
- 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1/2 cup warm water, or as needed
- 2 teaspoons unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar (optional)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 or 2 Thai or serrano chiles, thinly sliced (keep seeds intact); or 2 to 3 teaspoons chile garlic sauce or sambal oelek, optional
- 1 large garlic clove, minced, optional
- 1/2 small carrot, cut into thin matchsticks or coarsely grated, optional
For the curried beef lettuce wraps:
- 6 ounces small dried round rice noodles (maifun), or 8 ounces dried rice capellini or thin spaghetti
- Leaves from 1 large head of soft-leaf lettuce (such as butter, Boston, or red or green leaf)
- 6 to 8 bushy sprigs fresh mint or basil
- 10 to 12 sprigs fresh cilantro
- 1 or 2 Thai or serrano chiles, thinly sliced (keep seeds intact); or 2 to 3 teaspoons chile garlic sauce or sambal oelek
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 small carrot, cut into thin matchsticks or coarsely grated
1 Form the patties: In a medium bowl, combine the chopped peanuts, green onions, curry powder, black pepper, water, oyster sauce, and fish sauce. Add the beef and mix with your fingers. (If not cooking right away, cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.)
Form into 24 patties, each a good 2 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick. Set aside.
2 Make the nuoc cham: In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the sugar (or 3 tablespoons of the maple syrup), 3 tablespoons of the lime juice, and the water. Taste the limeade and, if needed, add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar (or 1 tablespoon maple syrup) and/or 1 tablespoon lime juice; dilute with water if you go too far. If there’s an unpleasant tart-bitter edge, add the vinegar to fix the flavor.
Add the fish sauce to the bowl; how much you use depends on the brand and your own taste. Aim for a bold, forward finish that’s a little gutsy. (Keep in mind that this sauce typically dresses dishes that include unsalted ingredients such as lettuce and herbs, which will need an extra flavor lift.) If desired, add the chiles, garlic, and/or carrot. (Offer the chiles on the side if diners are sensitive to their heat.) The sauce can sit at room temperature for up to 8 hours until serving.
3 Boil the noodles: Bring a large pot of unsalted water to a boil, add the noodles, and return to a boil. Cook until tender-chewy (package instructions are often not helpful, so test a strand—this can take anywhere between 2 and 8 minutes), drain, rinse with water, drain again, and let cool for 5 minutes.
Since the noodles are unwieldy, arrange them as 2-inch nests on a plate or in a shallow bowl. Set at the table with the dipping sauce, lettuce, and fresh herbs.
4 Cook the patties: Lightly oil a cast iron stove-top grill pan (or lightly film a heavy skillet with oil) and set over medium-high heat. In batches, add the beef and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, turning midway, until medium to medium-well done. (These are usually not eaten medium-rare, but you can cook for less time, if you like.) Transfer to a platter and let cool for a few minutes.
5 Serve the patties: Have diners build lettuce wraps with herbs, noodles, and beef. For easier eating, you can break or cut each patty into a few bite-size pieces. Set the sauce at the table so diners may help themselves, or portion it out in small bowls in advance of serving. Dunk in the sauce and eat.