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Tamarind-Ginger Roasted Pork Lettuce Wraps

Cook Time:
8 hrs
Prep Time:
40 mins

Chef notes

Even in the middle of winter, this recipe makes me wish I was chilling on a beach and eating a lettuce wrap with my hands. Tamarind and ginger enliven the roasted pork, which is wrapped in lettuce leaves with coconut rice.

Pick a pork shoulder with a good amount of fat. The fat helps to constantly baste the meat as it roasts and helps to ensure the meat turns out very tender. Most of it will drain off but you can pick off any remaining fat once cooked.

Swap option: Reserve the leftover pork to serve throughout the week in sandwiches, over fonio, sorrel and roasted fig salad, or with rice, topped with a soft-poached egg.


Tamarind-Ginger Pork
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 (4-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon powdered shrimp or fish sauce
  • 1/2 habanero chile, stemmed and seeded
  • 1/2 cup tamarind puree
  • 2 tablespoons honey, divided
  • kosher salt
  • 1 whole (8- to 10-pound) bone-in Boston pork butt
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons water
Coconut-Spiced Rice
  • cups water
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • kosher salt
To Serve
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves and tender stems picked
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1 head bibb lettuce, leaves separated and washed


For the tamarind-ginger pork:


Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the shallot, ginger and garlic, and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the powdered shrimp and toast until just fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chile, tamarind and 1 tablespoon of the honey, and cook, stirring frequently, until just beginning to simmer.


Remove from the heat. Puree the ingredients using a handheld immersion blender until smooth (alternatively, if you don't have a blender, grate the ginger and garlic using a rasp grater before adding, and mince the chile).


Season the tamarind marinade with salt and divide evenly between two small bowls; cover one bowl and refrigerate.


Cut a crosshatch design into the pork shoulder. Use a very sharp paring knife to cut long parallel lines into the skin of the roast, spacing about 3/4-inch apart. Try to cut through the fat completely without cutting into the meat itself. Repeat going the opposite direction cutting into the skin and fat to make a crosshatch pattern.


Rub the entire pork with half of the marinade, making sure to work it into all the nooks and crannies in the meat. Wrap the shoulder in plastic and refrigerate to marinate for at least 4 hours, or up to overnight.


Remove the pork from the refrigerator and allow to sit out for at least an hour to take the chill off.


Preheat the oven to 275 F. Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil.


Place the pork on a baking rack and place the rack on the foil. Slowly roast the pork, basting occasionally with the fat that drains off, until the meat is completely tender and pulling away from the bone when prompted with a fork, about 8 hours.


While the meat is cooking, combine the remaining tamarind marinade with the remaining 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, remaining 1 tablespoon honey and the water. Stir in the sliced scallions and set the sauce aside.


When the meat is done, let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Using two forks, pull the roast pork into chunks and toss with 1/4 cup of the reserved tamarind sauce.

For the coconut-spiced rice:

In a small saucepan, combine the water, coconut milk and turmeric powder. Add the rice and a pinch of salt and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the rice is tender and all the liquid is evaporated, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork.

To serve:

Divide the rice among four bowls and top with a healthy helping of the roast pork. Garnish with sliced raw shallots, cilantro and mint leaves.

Peel off whole lettuce leaves and wrap individual leaves around the rice and pork to make a roll. Serve with the sauce for dipping.