Spicy Pork Lettuce Cups with Noodles

Spicy, tomato tangy, savory ground meat. It has become one of the WORC household’s staple instant meal accessorizers.

The zingy muse came from Korean rice cakes. The spice, the touch of sweet, the savory drool inducing rice cakes are highly addicting. Ever hit Momofuku’s Ssam Bar in New York and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

With that in mind, I started sautéing up my own concoction. Cooking by taste, touch, and smell I came up with this magic meat. I’ll use whichever ground meat I jonesing for, from ground pork to beef to chicken to turkey. Lamb would probably rock too, I just haven’t tried it yet. Grab Diane’s uber tasty chili sauce from the fridge, some tomato paste, garlic, shallots, fish sauce and green onions. Oh yeah, and a little sugar to sweeten the deal and diner is a breath away from being done.

After the meat is done, we’ll toss it over rice, if we happen to actually have rice cakes they go great, or toss it up with some noodles. Pile a bunch on some bread with some pickles and it makes a great Asian style sloppy joe. The variations are endless.

But to put an end to this post, here is one variation which is great for a party. Toss the meat mix with some Asian noodles then swirl up the coated noodles onto lettuce cups and top with Thai basil and serve. Double delicious.


*White boy qualifier – I hadn’t looked up any Korean rice cake recipes when I was coming up with the recipe. I’m not sure if the meat mix is similar or not to actual Korean rice cakes recipes. It was just my muse.

Spicy Pork Lettuce Cups

Yield: 3-4

Cook Time: 20 min.


  • 1 T Cooking Oil (we prefer grape seed, peanut, or canola oil)
  • 3/4 c coarsely diced Shallots or Sweet Onions
  • 2 T crushed Garlic (about 6 cloves)
  • 1 1/2 lb ground Pork
  • 2 T Fish Sauce
  • 1/4 c Tomato Paste
  • 2 T Sugar
  • 2 t (more or less to spiciness preference) Chili Sauce (we use our house made chili sauce)
    1/2 c Water
  • 4 Green Onions, sliced in 1/2" pieces
  • 1/2 lb cooked Noodles (your preference - rice noodles, egg noodles, soba noodles)
  • 1 head Butterleaf Lettuce, washed and separated
  • 5-6 stems Thai Basil


  1. Heat large sauté pan over medium heat. Add oil and shallots and cook until soft (1-2 minutes), stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir in garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
  3. Add ground pork and increase heat to medium high. Brown meat, stirring occasionally to break up meat and help it brown evenly.
  4. Add fish sauce, tomato paste, sugar, chili sauce and water to meat and stir to combine. Add green onions and cook for another 30 seconds or until green onions soften slightly.
  5. Toss cooked noodles with meat mixture.
  6. Put about 1/4 cup of noodle/meat mix in each lettuce cup. Garnish with Thai Basil.
Recipe Source: WhiteOnRiceCouple.com.

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Recipe Note for Salt: All recipes containing salt are based on kosher or sea salt amounts, not table salt. If using table salt, reduce the amount used to taste.


{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. Lauren

    I just made these–absolutely wonderful. My lettuce-hating boyfriend also liked them. I added Thai roasted chili paste!

  2. myfudo

    Creative, exciting and delicious! I can’t wait to try this clever recipe. Love the neat package!

  3. Olivia

    Any chance I can sub in honey for the sugar? Does the measurement need to change?

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Hi Olivia,
      Sure you could substitute honey. I’d start with half the amount of honey, taste it then add more if necessary to your preference. Hope it turns out fabulous for you!

  4. Robert Richards Recipes

    Well, this recipe is not something I would of thought to make. But, I love trying new recipes and this looks like a fun one to make. 😉

  5. Kiran @ KiranTarun.com

    Yum! We usually order lettuce cup as an appetizer if and when its on the menu 🙂

  6. VA DE PAN

    I’ve tasted vietnamese nems with lettuce and are amazing, so, this noodles seem to be delicious too!!!!! I’ve already known what for dinner tonight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! thanks for sharing!!!!!!!

  7. JulieD

    I love this! And the white boy qualifier section made me laugh!

  8. Anna @ the shady pine

    What an ideal dinner…these would disappear in two seconds flat at our table 🙂

  9. Dan

    Any thoughts on a dipping sauce to serve with this? Or do you just eat it taco-style?

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Taco-style. Make the meat mix plenty spicy and flavor packed and that should give everything its punch.

  10. Erin @ Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts

    I love lettuce wraps, but have never tried them with noodles before. They looks incredible, can’t wait to try them!

  11. Wil

    What a great idea! I’m going to head down to the farmers’ market at the weekend and grab some nice, crisp lettuce to try this one with!

  12. Dish

    I love this. Any time I can serve dinner in an edible vessel, the kids are nearly guaranteed to eat it up. Thanks!

  13. michelle @ The Village Cook

    Ooo, this looks perfect for when you have one of those cravings for a little of everything. 😉 Us ladies get those a lot. But first, I need to make up some of that sauce… thanks!

  14. Cynthia A.

    I feel like spring has sprung looking at those light kissed lettuce cups filled with noodles and pork. Plus I’m drooling (only a little bit) reading over the recipe. Dinners at your house must rock!

  15. Susan in the Boonies

    OK, I am printing this out, and we have a freezer full of ground venison, so why not try it on that, right?

  16. Lis

    I’ve long wondered this but have never asked, is there a substitution for fish sauce? I’m highly allergic to fish and always just use dark soy sauce if fish sauce is called for but I was wondering if maybe there was some other option. Just curious. Thanks! These look amazing and I can’t wait to try some version.

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Whenever we are making vegetarian version of a recipe with fish sauce, we’ll do the same as you, substitute in soy sauce. Our main soy sauce we use in the house in the Maggi sauce, but any soy sauce will work. Gives the salt and the umami hit. Flavor is a little different of course, but it serves the same roll as the fish sauce.
      If anyone has any other substitutions for those who can’t have fish sauce, please share. We’d love to know of the favorite alternatives.

      1. Lis

        Thanks! Good to know I guessed right initially 🙂

  17. Valerie @ From Valerie's Kitchen

    I won’t be able to stop thinking about these until I make them. Pinning!

  18. spelyea

    mmmmmm LOVE that dish at ssam bar. can’t go there without ordering it.
    flavor, kick, chew – it has it all.
    want to make it at home but don’t know where to get those rice cake sticks!
    any idea what they’re officially called or where to buy them??

    either way, your dish looks *fantastic* and i can’t wait to try it
    [and the homemade chili sauce as well]
    thanks for sharing!

    1. White on Rice Couple

      We usually only see the rice cakes around here in the Asian grocers. There are two versions, fresh rice cakes which only have a day life span (kinda like good baguettes) or the dried ones which you boil before using. The English labeling usually just calls them rice cakes. The Korean dish that uses them is called Ddukppoki. Don’t ask me how to pronounce that 😉 Of course our Korean grocers in So. Cal have them, but the Japanese grocers usually have both the fresh and dried. And the Chinese or Vietnamese usually have at least the dried.
      If anyone has found them online, please share.
      Good luck!


      PS- I love Diane’s chili sauces. Both the garlic chili listed in this recipe and her Sriracha style sauce. Highly addicting!

  19. Joanne @ Fifteen Spatulas

    HAHA I love the white boy qualifier. I say pshh to recipe authenticity anyway, in the sense where everyone should adjust these dishes to their own tastes and preferences (even if it’s not the “traditional” way). These are just beautiful and look so enticing!

  20. d.liff @ yelleBELLYboo

    Love this recipe – sounds so yummy! We had lettuce wraps last night but totally different from these so maybe I’ll add this to the menu for next week!! Thanks!

  21. sonia

    Hi There,
    The lettuce cups are looking so delightful and appetizing and I wud simply love to add it to my meals. A very well made post with beautiful pictures. Have a wonderful week ahead. Thanks & Regards, Sonia !!!

  22. j3nn

    Yum! I love lettuce cups, but haven’t had any with noodles in them. On my to-try list, though! 🙂

    1. White on Rice Couple

      The Vietnamese have quite a few dishes with lettuce and herbs together with noodles, leading to this combo. I love the fresh greens with the noodles. Gives a contrasting texture and temperature with the noodles and spicy pork. Hope you get to try it out!


  23. Kate {Something Fabulous}

    I have tried something similar to this before and they are delicious! Healthy, too! So happy to have discovered your wonderful blog, hope you can take a look at mine some time. I recently featured your spring roll recipe on an On the Menu feature! I am a new follower of yours on Bloglovin 🙂 x

    Kate {Something Fabulous}

  24. Averie @ Averie Cooks

    I am cooking my way through, well, a little bit…of the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook. Holy moly. And what I wouldn’t give to try their restaurant meals, first hand.

    These cups look awesome and love the light and the butter lettuce and the plates…so pretty!

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