You guys! You guys! You guys! If I had to pick a favorite food, these Cambodian Beef Lettuce Wraps would probably be it. The flavors going on in here are fantastic! I could literally eat them every day and not get sick of them. There’s a reason I’ve busted out “THE BEST” in the title of these delicious Cambodian Beef Lettuce Wraps. Give them a try and you’ll be shouting from the roof tops about them too!
When I was 21 I served a 18 month mission for my church. During that time I worked together with other women my age to teach individuals and families about The Doctrine of Christ and The Plan of Salvation. One of the women I served very closely with for 9 of those 18 months was from Cambodia.
The first day I met her she told me she had something she wanted to make me for lunch. We had a busy day and I told her I wasn’t sure if it would work out to come back to our apartment for our lunch hour.
I went to go shower and when I got out I could smell something delicious coming from the kitchen. It didn’t smell like typical breakfast fare, the garlic aroma was strong. When I walked in I saw that she was preparing what looked like a mini-feast. She said she decided to make “it” for breakfast since we wouldn’t be back for lunch.
“It,” was these delicious Cambodian Beef Lettuce Wraps.
I’ve always been up for savory foods for breakfast so I was all over this, and once I tasted it! I WAS IN LOVE! Luckily I lived in the same apartment with her for a few more months and was able to be taught how to make these Cambodian Beef Lettuce Wraps. She also taught me to make a few other Cambodian dishes.
For a small town girl who’s most exotic meal was taco night, these new garlic/lime flavors were as exciting as Disney World as far as my taste buds were concerned!
The method in which she cooked these was different then anything I had ever done before or seen my mom do. She started by thinly slicing a top round steak into thin long strips, then she sprinkled them with chicken bullion and sugar and put them in the fridge for an hour or so. (I don’t usually put them in the fridge and it still turns out great…I don’t have that kind of patience!)
Then, she finely-chops or crushes lots and lots of garlic with a garlic press. She heats some canola oil in a large, deep skillet and saute’s the garlic in it until it is lightly browned. Then she transfers 2/3’s of the garlic out into a bowl and adds the meat that has been sliced and seasoned with chicken bullion and sugar. She cooks that until it is about half way done and then adds LOTS of sliced onions and continues cooking until the meat is cooked and the onions are tender. There should be some juices at this point as you can see in the picture.
I guess this is where I need to mention that before you actually start cooking the garlic and meat you set up the serving trays or plates by making a layer of green leaf or romaine lettuce on the bottom and then putting a layer of thinly sliced tomatoes on top of that. When you put the lettuce down try to put it so that the leaves can be pulled off the plate in one fail swoop once they have everything added on top. Does that make sense.
If you don’t want to go for the look of serving it on a platter or if your kids are gonna freak about the lettuce or the tomato, you can put everything in separate dishes and eat it more buffet style.
Once the meat is cooked, you carefully spoon it out onto the prepared lettuce/tomato trays or into a bowl, careful to leave all the juices in the skillet. This is where you have to work fast. Remember that bowl you put the lightly browned garlic in? You need to add some salt and pepper to it. Have it close to the skillet, because in a minute you are going to pour the juices in the pan, but first you need to dilute the juices a little, because they are probably pretty strong. I usually add about a half a cup to a cup of water, basically I add about what the amount of juices is, so it’s a 1:1 ratio. Heat that through and then pour it into the garlic bowl that you added some salt and pepper too.
Now the last step is to squeeze lime juice in it. Again, the amount will depend on how much sauce you have. I usually use 1/2 or 1 whole lime. You can serve additional lime wedges if people would like a little more.
The sauce is really important! Don’t skip it! Make sure to drizzle it all over your lettuce wrap and rice. You can pull a lettuce leaf of the tray with tomato and beef already on it and add a spoonful of rice and drizzle with sauce. Or, you can build your own by putting a little rice on your lettuce leaf and adding the tomato and beef and then your drizzle of sauce. YUM!!!
You will also need to have some steamed rice ready to go. We like to use Jasmine Rice with these Cambodian Beef Lettuce Wraps.
You want to time it so you can serve these as soon as they are ready, they are best served fresh. We love these so much! My siblings love it if I make these when they are visiting. I actually usually only bust these out when we have company and I have people who can set up the lettuce/tomato trays while I cook the meat.
They are a little high maintenance, but not too bad, and totally worth it!
Just typing this is making my mouth-water! Who wants to come visit me so I have an excuse to make them?
- 2-3 lbs top round roast, sliced thinly, and in strips as pictured
- 2-3 onions, wedged and then sliced ¼ inch thick
- 10-15 large pieces of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
- 3 tbsp canola oil
- 3 tsp chicken bullion
- 3 tsp granulated sugar
- 2 limes
- 2 heads romaine, green leaf or red leaf lettuce, washed and separated into leaves
- 6-8 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
- Heat canola oil in a large deep skillet, when hot add garlic and saute until garlic is light brown, remove ⅔'s and put it in a 2-3 cup bowl and set aside.
- Add beef to skillet sprinkle with chicken bullion and sugar. If using three pounds of meat add ½ tsp more of each.
- Cook meat until half way cooked, add sliced onions and continue cooking until meat is done and onions are tender.
- While meat is cooking arrange lettuce on serving trays. Read post to see how this is to be done. I usually have someone else do this while I am cooking or prepare them before I start the cooking process. If you prefer you can serve everything in separate dishes instead of building serving trays.
- When meat and onions are done, transfer them onto the serving trays as pictures or put them in a serving bowl. Use tongs or a slotted spoon being careful to leave the juices in the skillet.
- Quickly work to make the sauce. Depending on how much juices are left in the pan you need to add ½ cup to 1¼ cup of water to the juices. I usually taste it and see how strong it is. If using three pounds of meat you will most likely need to add a full 1¼ cup, or even a little more.
- Taste the juices and add water, heat till bubbling. Pour into the bowl that has the reserved browned garlic. Squeeze lime juice and add salt and pepper to taste. I usually add about ¼ tsp pepper, ¼ tsp salt and a tbsp or so of lime juice. Start with a tsp or so and keep adding until it meets your lime preference.
- You can also serve lime wedges for people to add more lime if they would like.
- These are meant to be eaten with Jasmine Rice, but regular rice will work well too. The sauce taste amazing drizzled on the lettuce wraps as well as plain rice on the side.
- This is a special meal that people will rave about when you cook it for them!
Desserts you've gotta try!!!
This is the skillet I use.