Viet-Tex-Mex: Fried Avocado Lettuce Wraps

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"Fried Avocado Lettuce Wraps" is the name of popular new appetizer on the menu of Matt's Rancho Martinez in Dallas. Invented by fourth-generation Tex-Mex chef Marco Martinez, the dish features chicken-fried avocado slices served with Vietnamese-style lettuce wraps and condiments along with a monkey bowl of ranch dressing for dipping.

"Why not?" Marco Martinez said. Everybody loves the lettuce wraps served in Texas Vietnamese restaurants, he observed, so why not put the popular lettuce tacos on a Tex-Mex menu? If you order fajitas along with the appetizer, you can also use the lettuce wraps for the hot meats, he suggested.

Vietnamese lettuce wraps are traditionally stuffed with hot egg rolls, grilled beef, and other savory items. The hot ingredient is placed in the romaine leaf along with other condiments offered on the plate such as shredded carrots, sprigs of cilantro and other herbs, sliced jalapeño and cucumber. The assembled roll is then dunked in a dipping sauce.

Marco's father, Matt Martinez Jr., founder of the Dallas restaurant and author of several Tex-Mex cookbooks told me that Viet-Tex-Mex is nothing new. The "Black Magic" finishing sauce that Matt Martinez sells as part of a line of Tex-Mex seasoning blends is soy sauce-based, he said. Soy sauce and pineapple juice in a favorite fajita marinade all over the state.

-Robb Walsh

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