Friday, April 27, 2012

Recipe for Thai-Inspired Turkey Mini-Meatball Lettuce Wraps

Thai-Inspired Turkey Mini-Meatball Lettuce Wraps
Turkey Mini-Meatball Lettuce Wraps with spicy Thai Flavors!

(For Phase One Fridays I highlight Phase One recipes from the past that have been my personal favorites.   These little mini-meatballs are served inside lettuce leaves with a spicy Thai-flavored dressing, and I could eat this every day!)

It was pure serendipity that I discovered this recipe for ultra flavorful little turkey meatballs, served inside lettuce leaves with a spicy Thai-style sauce, some diced cucumber, and fresh mint. I didn't have anything like this in mind when I thawed out a pound of ground turkey; I was actually thinking about using it in the Horseradish Meatloaf, before I changed my mind. So there I was with a pound of turkey that needed to be used, and when I need recipe ideas in a hurry, I often stand in front of my wall of cookbooks and just flip through books, using the index to see what recipes I can find for that ingredient. I found this recipe in The South Beach Diet Taste of Summer Cookbook, but this is a recipe I'd enjoy all year, maybe substituting cilantro for the mint when it's out of season.

I've been scolded a few times for not specifying ground turkey breast, which the South Beach cookbooks usually call for, but I use this ground turkey that's only 10% fat, which fits the guideline for "lean meat with less than 10% fat" that the South Beach books specify.

One of the main changes I made to the recipe was to increase the amount of the spicy dressing made of fish sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and hot pepper flakes. I must have been feeling lazy, because I just stirred this together with the measuring spoon! (If you're not that familiar with fish sauce, you might want to decrease it a bit. I love Thai food and used the Three Crabs Fish Sauce I got from my step-sister Karyn after I learned about it from Lydia.)

In another bowl, stir together the minced garlic, grated fresh ginger root, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and soy sauce that you'll be adding to the turkey. (I mixed this all together to be sure that flavors were well-blended.)

Add that mixture into the meat, then stir a few times to get the seasoning mixture distributed throughout the meat. (The meat mixture is really soft in this recipe, and if you have lots of time I would chill the turkey at this point before making the meatballs.)

I used a metal 1 T measuring spoon to make small meatballs, which turned out to make exactly 24 small meatballs like the recipe said. I was afraid the turkey would stick in the pan, so I heated a couple of teaspoons of peanut oil before I started frying the meatballs. Fry 12 meatballs at a time, or as many as you can fit without crowding them in the pan.

While meatballs are frying, pull mint leaves off the stem, wash, and spin dry (or use chopped cilantro if you prefer) and cut the cucumber into matchstick pieces (or just chop the cucumber if you don't want to be that fancy.) I arranged the cucumber, dressing, and mint on a plate so it was ready to garnish the lettuce wraps.

As I said, the meatballs were really soft, and next time I might make little meat patties instead, but even though a few meatballs fell apart, they tasted fantastic.

I love butter lettuce which the recipe called for, but I had romaine hearts in the fridge, so I just used the sweet inner pieces of romaine to wrap the meatballs. Put 2 or 3 meatballs inside a lettuce leaf, spoon some dressing over, and garnish with chopped cucumber and mint leaves (or chopped cilantro.) Yum! This was seriously good, and a nice alternative to salads for phase one!


Thai-Inspired Turkey Mini-Meatball Lettuce Wraps
(Makes 8-12 lettuce wraps, depending on how many meatballs you put in each, recipe adapted slightly from The South Beach Diet Taste of Summer Cookbook.)

Dressing Ingredients:
4 T fish sauce (I like Three Crabs Fish Sauce, if you're not that used to fish sauce you might decrease it a little)
4 T rice vinegar (don't use seasoned vinegar, which contains sugar)
2 tsp. Asian sesame oil
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (more or less to taste, this was moderately spicy with this amount)

Meatballs Ingredients:
1 lb. ground turkey (use turkey with not more than 10% fat for South Beach Diet)
1 tsp. finely minced garlic
1 T grated fresh ginger root
1 T Asian sesame oil
2 tsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. soy sauce (regular or low sodium)
2 tsp. + 1 tsp. peanut oil or grapeseed oil (for frying meatballs)

Lettuce and Garnish Ingredients:
1 small cucumber, cut in thin slices, then sliced into matchstick pieces
3/4 cup mint leaves (or use chopped cilantro if you prefer or when fresh mint isn't available)
8-12 lettuce leaves (I used romaine lettuce, but you could use other types, especially butter lettuce)

Instructions:
Mix together the fish sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes and let the dressing flavors blend while you make and cook the meatballs.

Chop garlic and grate fresh ginger root, then add sesame oil, rice vinegar, and soy sauce. Put ground turkey in a bowl, then use a large spoon to mix in the seasoning mixture. (The meat mixture is very soft. If you're not rushed for time I would chill the turkey mixture for 20-30 minutes before making the meatballs, or just make small patties instead of meatballs.)

Heat 2 tsp. peanut or grapeseed oil in a large heavy frying pan, then use a tablespoon-sized measuring cup to scoop out turkey to make meatballs (or small patties), adding each one to the hot pan as you make them. Cook the meatballs in two batches so you don't crowd the pan, cooking each batch until the outside is lightly browned and they're cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. (I added the other tsp. of oil when I cooked the second batch.)

While meatballs cook, wash and dry mint leaves (or chop cilantro) and cut the cucumber into thin slices, then slice into matchstick pieces. (You can also just chop the cucumber if you don't want to be that fancy.) Wash and dry lettuce leaves. (I used just the tender sweet inside leaves and saved the rest for salad.)

When meatballs are done, make lettuce wraps by putting 2-3 meatballs inside a piece of lettuce, drizzling on sauce, and topping with cucumber and mint or cilantro. If you make this for a dinner party, it would be fun to let guests assemble their own, and I'm betting you won't have any leftovers!


South Beach Suggestions:
Made with low-fat ground turkey, this would be approved for any phase of the South Beach Diet, and it's a great alternative to salads for phase one. It's definitely a mix of cuisines, but I think this would taste great with Spicy Mexican Slaw for phase one.

More Lettuce Wrap Ideas to Try:
(Recipes from other blogs may not always be South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Asian Lettuce Cups (or wraps) with Spicy Ground Turkey Filling from Kalyn's Kitchen
Turkey Lettuce Wrap Tacos with Chiles, Cumin, Cilantro, Lime, and Tomato-Avocado Salsa from Kalyn's Kitchen
Chicken Lettuce Wraps by Rand from Kalyn's Kitchen
P.F. Chang's Lettuce Wraps from Wasabimon
Asian Lettuce Cups with Ground Turkey and Green Apple from Steamy Kitchen
Asian Lettuce Wraps from Delish
Pork and Green Bean Lettuce Wraps with Sesame-Hoisin Sauce from Cookin' Canuck
Asian Lettuce Wraps from Recipe Girl
(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)counter customizable free hit

49 comments:

  1. Those look seriously very delicious!! Love lettuce wraps any time.

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  2. I cannot WAIT to try these! It makes my mouth water just thinking of how good they must be!

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  3. Pam, I loved them! Just as good as the other turkey lettuce wraps, but different flavors.

    Brenda, thanks. They were indeed so good.

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  4. That looks amazing. I have to try to make them.

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  5. These sound incredibly delicious. Here's another meatball recipe that is very tasty, from Monica Bhide's Everything Indian cookbook. I just tried it..it's a bit spicy, so I used less chili. My kids loved it.

    http://www.monicabhide.com/my_weblog/2010/09/recipe-supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-chicken-kebabs-with-brandy-no-less.html

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  6. Zeller, hope you will try it, it's definitely a tasty dinner.

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  7. Beautiful presentation and photos! I can imagine serving this as the centerpiece of a lunch party.

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  8. I'm not sure why blogger (or Comcast?) is so slow sending me the comments, but sometimes I'm not getting earlier comments until after I've already replied to come people. Very odd, but truly I don't mean to ignore anyone.

    I think this would be fun as an appetizer, or it could be the main dish. Loved it.

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  9. Anything thai flavored sounds fantastic to me! I've never thought of doing thai meatballs...but they sound delicious!

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  10. The phots looks delicious! And I love lettuce and turkey, it is a soft combination.

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  11. YUM! It's almost like a Banh Mi but on lettuce instead of bread! Looks delicious :D

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  12. I love the sound of this! I actually have all of the ingredients at home... maybe this is tonight's dinner!

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  13. So glad people are liking this! Other than the cilantro or mint, I think all these ingredients are things I'd always have on hand. I hadn't thought of that, but another plus for the recipe.

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  14. How cute are those? I love lettuce wraps. Who needs bread when you have such lovely flavors?

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  15. Karina, my thoughts exactly! I think lettuce even goes better with the flavors here than a tortilla or pita would.

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  16. I am so glad that you changed your mind and made these instead of the meatloaf! They look amazing!

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  17. This looks like such an interesting recipe. I actually have all the ingredients too! (FINALLY found fish sauce at the store)

    great photos Kalyn.

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  18. Cindi, I loved it! (I did make the meatloaf too, just didn't put any turkey in it.)

    Mags, Glad you got fish sauce, you will love this!

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  19. The photo is beautiful! I love using ground turkey now...venison too. Sounds like a recipe even my 7year old will eat. Thanks!

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  20. Oh my! Those looks so delicious. I love the romaine as a sub too. It's quite pretty with a line of tiny meatballs. I'm making this for an upcoming girlfriend get together. They are going to LOVE this!

    Thanks Kalyn.

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  21. Sherry, hope so. You might make the sauce in two batches with less fish sauce and spiciness for the kids.

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  22. CJ, we were typing at the same time I guess. I think this will be a hit with your friends if they like Thai food.

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  23. So pretty and delicious looking!I love lettuce wraps, but usually you find them in a crumbly form, and they are messy and the filling falls out. Your meatball style solves that problem!

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  24. I loved the meatballs, or patties if you went that route. Not my idea though; they were meatballs in the recipe from the book.

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  25. Meat balls look such a great idea! I posted a PF Chang's kind recipe a few weeks back! This is my next time try..Thanks for the recipe!

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  26. Tanvi, you're welcome. (And I do love those PF Chang's lettuce wraps!)

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  27. These are absolutely adorable and sound delicious! I saw them on Ekat's Kitchen's Saturday Roundup. Thanks for the recipe...this one's getting printed as I write :)

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  28. Michele, thanks. So glad it appeals to you. Loved it.

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  29. Thank you Kalyn, for visiting my blog!! I just knew I had to feature these this wee when I saw them on Wednsday. I love your creativity and all of your amazing ideas and recipes!!

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  30. Erin, thank YOU, and so glad you're enjoying the recipes.

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  31. I made these tonight... They were delicious! I used Thai basil in place of the mint, it added a nice, spicy kick. Thanks Kalyn!

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  32. Amber, so glad you liked it and I love the idea of using Thai basil!

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  33. I was a little scared of the fish sauce since I don't usually use it, but I ended up liking the dressing just fine. The mint was a great flavor in it too. I love a dish that's tasty and beautiful like this one is! (The 8 year old wasn't big on the lettuce wraps overall but loved the meatballs).

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  34. Janice, I know fish sauce can be kind of an acquired taste, so I'm so glad you liked it! I think the smell is a bit strong, but the flavor is great. And glad the 8-year old liked the meatballs!

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  35. This was great, we just had for dinner. I think I will try with chicken breast cut into strips next time, like an Asian fajita.....

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  36. Paul, so glad to hear you liked it!

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  37. This is the first recipe I ever tried from your blog, Kalyn, and I love it. Since I am lazy, instead of making meatballs, I just browned the ground turkey with all of the meatball seasonings and wrapped that in the lettuce-- still super yummy, and a little less involved as well. Thanks for your blog, it's spectacular!

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  38. Rachel, so glad you're enjoying the blog. And I think next time I make this I'll just brown the meat and eat it in the lettuce too.

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  39. You seriously have the best lettuce wrap recipes!

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  40. Kalyn, how many lettuce wraps are a serving for this?

    Thanks. I'm new to SB

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  41. Thanks Deborah!

    Suzanne, nothing in this recipe is really a limited food, but 2 or 3 lettuce wraps is probably what I'd eat. (On South Beach only high fat/calorie dense foods are limited in serving size. In general they say to eat until you are full, but not overly full.)

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  42. Kalyn, another yummy sounding recipe. Tell me though, if the thought of fish sauce is a big turn off - is there a substitution?? I tend to shy away from anything 'fishy'!! Thanks Kalyn

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  43. It's really the fish sauce that makes this have Thai flavors, and I'm not sure what would substitute for that. Maybe a much smaller amount of Worcestershire sauce? Try googling substitutions for fish sauce and see if you find anything. I bet if you like Thai food though, you would like this with the fish sauce.

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  44. Well I may just have to step out of my comfort zone on try it. We do love Thai! But I wanted to make these today so maybe I'll just do it without and see what happens. Thanks Kalyn

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  45. Made these meatballs for dinner last night and am currently eating leftovers for lunch today- they save very well! Might even freeze. This recipe really embodied why I love this blog- I get great tasting food with so much flavor and so much VARIETY compared to your usual "diet" fare. It makes low carb a real lifestyle instead of a diet.

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  46. Clare, thanks for that nice feedback! So glad you are enjoying the blog.

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  47. These were tasty! Mine were a bit dry but the sauce evened it out. Maybe I cooked them too long?

    I also think this would be good crumbled up and just eaten like a salad/bowl. Less juice all over my hands and plate!

    Thanks, as always, for sharing!

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  48. I do think this would be great just cooked as crumbled meat and not bothering with the meatballs.

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