Lamb and Kimchi Lettuce Wraps

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Lamb has been my protein of the summer.   My grocery store finally started carrying lamb chops and ground lamb.  We have been feasting on lamb burgers for half the summer, but I wanted to mix it up a little.

One of my favorite places is a theater in Minneapolis.  We got free tickets for a show last week, and had dinner at their little bar before hand.  I ordered spicy asian lettuce wraps and they were inspiring.

The one problem with craving spicy food is that my fiance has the taste buds of a midwesterner.  The tiniest amount of heat sets him to breathing like a lion and gasping about how his mouth is on fire.  The lettuce wraps I ordered had spicy pork belly and candied jalepenos.   Not going to fly at home.  So I settled on lamb meatballs and a spicy-ish kimchi to satisfy my need for heat with my fiance’s delicate palate.

Turns out, I am a genius.  The combination was perfect!

This recipe has several components: the meatballs, the kimchi, and the the glaze. The kimchi is actually a quick kimchi, not the kind that ferments in a jar buried in your backyard for a year or two.  A store bought kimchi would also work, but why do that when you can make your own with relatively little effort?  I recommend making the kimchi far enough ahead of time that it can cool, even up to a day or two before if you want.  The meatballs and the glaze are pretty quick after that.

Quick Kimchi

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  • 1/2 head napa cabbage, chopped
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sambal (Asian chili paste available in the asian section of most grocery stores!)
  • 2 T sugar
  • 2 T sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup scallions, finely chopped


Boil six cups of salted water.  Put the cabbage in a large bowl and pour the boiling water over it.  Let set on the counter until it comes to room temperature.  Meanwhile, whisk together all the other ingredients.  When the cabbage is at room temperature, drain off the extra water, pour the sauce mixture over it, and toss until thoroughly mixed.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Lamb Meatballs

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  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tsp dry parsley
  • 2 gloves minced garlic
  • 1 inch ginger, grated (about 1 T after grating)
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg


Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl.  Be careful not to overmix! Heat about 1 T of olive oil in a large skillet.  Roll the meatballs so they are a little under 1 inch in diameter.  Brown on all sides, being careful to turn regularly so as not to overcook.  You do want to get a nice sear on the edge, however.  This should take about 5-7 minutes.  Meanwhile, mix together the glaze.

Asian Meatball Glaze

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  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 T sambal
  • 2 T hoisin
  • 2 T rice wine vinegar
  • 1 T sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp fish sauce


Whisk all the above ingredients together.  When the meatballs are finished, glaze them in the sauce before serving.

Put it all together!

Extra Ingredients

  • bean sprouts
  • butter lettuce leaves
  • cilantro and lime if desired


Wash and pat dry each lettuce leaf.  For one wrap, use two leaves.  Place three glazed meatballs in the center.  Top with kimchi and bean sprouts.  Add cilantro and lime if you wish (cilantro not pictured).  Plan on these disappearing quickly.

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Even Mr. Minnesota loved them.  And that, my friends, is a true accomplishment.


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