Japanese lettuce wraps: Deliciousness, compounded

A perfect snack with a cold beer. By Ella Walker

Wednesday 29 December 2021 09:07
<p>You can serve it with tofu, rice or noodles, but this is the classic way: spooned into lettuce leaves </p>

You can serve it with tofu, rice or noodles, but this is the classic way: spooned into lettuce leaves

Nikumiso is one of the most ingeniously delicious preparations in the entire world. That may sound like hyperbole, but consider its contents: miso, minced (ground) pork, sugar, and flavourings like onion, garlic and ginger. So it’s essentially just deliciousness, compounded,” explains food writer and restaurateur Tim Anderson.

“It has many uses: you can pile it onto blocks of tofu or bowls of rice, mix it into noodles, work it through stir-fried vegetables, or just shovel it straight into your mouth, like I do. This is a classic way of serving it, simply spooned into lettuce leaves, which provide a perfect contrast in flavour and texture.”

Nikumiso lettuce wraps

Serves: 2, with leftovers


1 tbsp oil

1 tsp sesame oil

1 onion, finely chopped

500g (1 lb 2 oz) minced (ground) pork

20g (¾ oz) ginger root, peeled and very finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped or grated

50g (2 oz) red miso

2 tbsp mirin

1 tbsp sake

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp sesame seeds

1 tsp vinegar (optional – not traditional, but I think it adds a nice mouthwatering quality)

1 head little gem lettuce, separated into leaves

Shichimi, to garnish (optional)


1. Heat the oils in a frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat. Add the onion and ginger and saute for about eight to 10 minutes until the onion begins to brown. Add the minced pork and garlic, increase the heat to high, and break up the pork into small crumbles. When the pork is cooked through, add the miso and mix through. Keep cooking for about five minutes so the pork and miso begin to brown.

2. Add the mirin, sake, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame seeds and vinegar, if using, and cook for another five minutes or so until the liquid has reduced to a very thick gravy and the mixture is dense and rich.

3. Transfer to a bowl and serve beside the lettuce leaves. Spoon the mixture into the leaves and wrap them up, eating them with your hands, along with a little shichimi, if you like.

Tip: This will make more nikumiso than you need for this recipe, but that’s by design. It’s super tasty and you’ll find uses for it. If you use really fatty mince, when it’s chilled, this has a consistency like a really coarse pate, so you can just eat it on toast.

Recipe extracted from ‘Your Home Izakaya’ by Tim Anderson (published by Hardie Grant, £25; photography by Laura Edwards), available now

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