• Sam Burgess

Thai Pork Jerky Lettuce Cups

Updated: Jan 29

Something about lettuce cups is just so satisfying. Maybe it's the customization of what you actually enjoy in the handheld cup. Maybe it’s the control of how much of each element you want in each bite. Or maybe it’s the satisfying crunch of fresh lettuce! Any way you want to look at them, lettuce cups are one of the finest foods. Especially when you stuff them with umami-packed Thai pork jerky!

The main element of this dish is the meat, known as Moo Dat Diow, a Thai-style pork jerky. Thin slices of pork shoulder are marinated in a sweet and salty combination of sauces, lightly dried out, then deep-fried for an intense flavor and incredibly chewy texture.

Gotham Greens butterhead lettuce, pork shoulder and 7" boning knife

One of the integral parts of the marinade is the addition of fish sauce, a seasoning sauce made from salted fish and fermented between a few weeks and up to 2 years! It has an incredible umami flavor due to a high glutamate content, a protein also found in seared meat or grilled mushrooms that give off a rich savory flavor.

Fish sauce can be produced from different species of fish and shellfish and contain primarily fish like anchovy, shrimp, mackerel, or other strong-flavored fish. Some varieties do contain herbs and spices for more flavor! Fish sauce that has been fermented only a few weeks has a pronounced fishy taste by itself, in comparison to the long-fermented fish sauce that develops a nuttier, richer, and more savory flavor.

Another unique component in the marinade is sweet soy sauce, a sauce made from fermented black soybeans, roasted grain, and lots of palm sugar. Additional spices such as star anise, cinnamon, black pepper, clove, or coriander can be added. When compared to regular soy sauce, sweet soy sauce has a thicker consistency and a much sweeter taste. It’s great on a variety of foods including udon noodles, yakitori, or roasted vegetables.

Sweet soy sauce meets other aromatic ingredients for the pork marinade

The remainder of the marinade is composed of minced garlic, white pepper, regular soy sauce, brown sugar, and minced Thai chili. This is a very aromatic combination and the final result will sing with savory flavors!

After marinating for a few hours, the pork slices are removed from the marinade and blotted dry, before going into the refrigerator to dry further. This helps deepen the flavor of the jerky, as well as dry it out for an incredible texture once fried. This step is optional but makes a difference in the final result.

Marinated pork shoulder dotted with Thai chilis after drying in the refrigerator overnight

Once the pork has cured, heat 3 inches of oil in a saucepot to 375F degrees, and flash fry the pork until crispy around the edges and cooked in the middle. The aromatic pork transforms into a tender and delicious pork snack that can be enjoyed throughout the week!

However, we thought it would be even better to turn the pork into lettuce cups, made with some of the finest lettuce available, from Gotham Greens! This Brooklyn-based company builds and operates sustainable greenhouses in cities across America, where produce like lettuce and herbs are grown year-round. Local cultivation and regional distribution help deliver their products quickly after harvest to ensure they are fresh tasting, nutritionally dense, and long-lasting.

In 2019, they launched a 100,000 square-foot greenhouse in Providence, RI, near the location of our Test Kitchen! It was a natural collaboration when it comes to matching quality ingredients and quality knives. The lettuces they produce are crisp, fresh, and irresistible, so keep an eye out if you can find any!

Finished pork jerky with fresh cilantro, Gotham Greens butterhead lettuce and daikon radish

Beyond the lettuce, all other components are suggestions but will pair well with the savory pork and crisp lettuce. Cooked vermicelli or rice will make it a complete meal rather than a snack and will be great at absorbing any other flavors. Tangy pickle slices, especially Asian-style pickles, will balance out the deep savoriness of the pork jerky. Sliced daikon radish or red radish add a fresh bite and a hearty crunch to the lettuce cups. Fermented hot sauce, like sriracha, will bring the heat and add another layer of flavor to everything so far. Top it all off with cilantro sprigs for a rounded bright flavor from the fresh herbs. Any other additions are welcome to your taste, so make it your own!

Butterhead lettuce coupled with Thai pork jerky, cilantro, pickles and hot sauce

The recipe starts with the Moo Dat Diow, but its potential is much greater than just a simple snack. Fresh ingredients make a huge difference and can be enjoyed throughout the week as snack/meal prep! Now get to it with your favorite knives in hand.

Thai Pork Jerky Lettuce Cups

Thai pork jerky, also known as Moo Dat Diow, is a salty and savory pork snack that is perfect for filling lettuce cups! Pair with a variety of toppings for a fresh and filling snack or meal. Thanks to Gotham Greens (@gothamgreens) for the fantastic lettuce!

Recipe by Sam Burgess

Forge To Table

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 30 min

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients :

  • 1 pound pork shoulder

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 1 teaspoon white pepper

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce

  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

  • 1 Thai chili, minced (optional)

  • Vegetable oil, for frying

  • Gotham Greens Butterhead Lettuce, for garnish

  • Cooked vermicelli or rice, for garnish

  • Pickled cucumber, for garnish

  • Fermented hot sauce, for garnish

  • Daikon radish, sliced, for garnish

  • Cilantro leaves, for garnish


  1. (PREPARE MARINADE) In a large bowl, combine garlic, white pepper, fish sauce, soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, brown sugar, and Thai chili. Whisk well to combine.

  2. (MARINATE PORK) Using a Forge To Table Boning Knife, cut the pork into strips 3-4 inches long and ½ inch thick. Add pork to soy marinade and massage it into the slices until well coated. Marinate the pork for 4 hours.

  3. (DRY PORK) Line a baking sheet with paper towels and blot off any excess marinade from each piece of pork. Lay the pork out onto a sheet tray, and set in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight, to dry further.

  4. (FRY PORK) In a medium saucepan, heat about 3 inches worth of vegetable oil over high heat until it reaches 375F degrees. (Alternatively, a tabletop fryer works great!) Fry the pork strips in small batches and fry until cooked thru and crispy around the edges, about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove the pork and let drain and cool on a wire rack or paper towels.

  5. (ASSEMBLE CUPS) Assemble garnishes on a large plate, including pieces of Gotham Greens Butterhead Lettuce, cooked vermicelli or rice, pickled cucumber, fermented hot sauce, daikon radish, and cilantro leaves, along with any other delicious components. Tear jerky into strips, assemble, and enjoy!

Chef’s Notes:

  • If Gotham Greens lettuce is not available in your area, other high-quality butter lettuces are good substitutes

  • The drying step for 6 hours can be skipped, but the pork will not have the same depth of flavor or crispy edges.

  • Leftover jerky should be placed in an airtight container in the fridge and enjoyed within a week.

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