Spicy Beef Lettuce Cups

Asian lettuce cups

I hate wasting food. I’m pretty sure my number one wasted food is celery. I’m always buying bunches of celery and only using one or two stalk for a soup base. Maybe I’ll use one more stock to throw into my tuna salad but there’s always bound to be a hefty number of stalks left unused. With 96% of a head of celery left, I decided to seek out a recipe that featured celery as the star. I recently acquired Fucsia Dunlop’s very pretty cookbook, Every Grain of Rice and came across a minced beef dish that looked promising. Of course, I couldn’t find half the shit she listed as ingredients so I ended up coming up with my own spice mixture. We’ll call this “asian” beef since the flavors are Thai, Vietnamese and Korean and the rice is Japanese. You can really use ANY combination of spices and pastes in this recipe (equal to about 2 and a half Tablespoons). I happen to like Korean gochujang but you could also use chinese bean paste. I’m also including my recipe for FOOL PROOF sushi rice since everyone with a pan and lid should be able to have perfect fluffy rice in under 20 minutes.


Makes 2 cups

You will need:

1 cup premium grade Japanese sushi rice (Nishiki and Kokuho are good brands)

1 cup water

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon sugar

Optional: 1 teaspoon rice vinegar


1. Rinse the rice in a strainer after measuring exactly 1 cup in a dry measuring cup and add too a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid.

2. Add 1 cup of water, cover and bring to boil over high heat. Watch and listen very carefully as it will boil in 4-6 minutes.

3. When the pot starts to shake and steam and water splutters out, turn the heat way way down to just barely a simmer. DO NOT TAKE THE LID OFF TO CHECK. Cook for 16 minutes at a simmer.

4. Remove the pot, sill covered, from the stove. Set it to steam (can be another dormant burner on your stove) for about 10 minutes without checking it.

5.  Using a wooden spoon, remove the rice from the pot to a large plastic bowl and fold in the salt and sugar. If there is a crispy layer of rice on the bottom of your pot, leave it and cut your losses, you only want the fluffy white stuff on top. The rice will sit comfortably for a few hours in a plastic bowl with a damp towel covering it.

Asian lettuce cups

Spicy Beef Lettuce Cups

Serves 2

You will need:

2 servings of cooked sushi rice

1 head of Boston or Butter lettuce (these make for perfect cups)

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

3/4 lb. high quality ground beef

4 stalks of celery

1 cup water

3 scallions, green parts only, finely chopped

1 Tablespoon thai chili paste (Chinese black bean chili paste also works)

1 Tablespoon gochugang (Korean bean paste)

1 teaspoon sambal oelek or siracha

1 small 2-inch nib of fresh ginger.

1 teaspoon soy sauce


1. First cook the sushi rice according to the directions above.

2. Peel the stringy side of each celery stock with a vegetable peeler and discard. Cut the ribs into fine sticks and then chop finely into a tiny dice. Peel the ginger and chop finely as well until you have 1 Tablespoon.

3. In a large non-stick frying pan, heat the water over medium high heat. When you start to see bubbles (about 5 minutes), add the chopped celery and cook for 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.

4. Wipe out the pan and heat the oil over medium heat. Add the ginger and cook for 2 minutes until fragrant. Then add the beef and continuously stir for 3 minutes. Add the chili paste, gochugang and sambal oelek and continue to stir. Cook until the beef starts to get crispy, remove from heat and toss with soy sauce and scallions.

5. Serve with lettuce cups and warm sushi rice, making taco-like wraps.

Pair with one of these sides: Black Garlic Soba Noodles, Sesame Kale or Agedashi Tofu.

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