It should not be confused with la trau (Vietnamese betel leaves (piper betle)), a climbing vine, which is often chewed with the areca or betel nut and lime. Chewing releases dark red juices which stains teeth and lips. These days in Vietnam, few people except for the elderly eat trau cau. Although you'll sometimes see the betel leaf and areca nut at engagement and wedding ceremonies to signify love and fidelity. To find out why, you can read the Vietnamese folktale of the betel leaf and areca nut.
Anyway, back to the wild betel leaf. La lot is often cooked wrapped around minced beef as it is incredibly fragrant when grilled or pan-fried. I keep the seasonings pretty simple as the herb adds so much flavor on its own. I'm lucky that my youngest uncle grows la lot, but you can find them in most Asian grocery stores. This dish is popular as part of many Vietnamese restaurants' bo 7 mon (7 courses of beef). Serve with Mam Nem (Vietnamese Fermented Anchovy Sauce) for dipping. These herb wraps may be simply eaten with rice, or wrapped in rice paper.
Bo Nuong La Lot (Vietnamese Grilled Beef with Wild Betel Leaf)
3 or 4 dozen la lot (wild betel leaves)
1/2 lb ground beef
1/4 lb ground pork
1/2 tsp salt
1 tblsp soy sauce, or 2 tsp soy sauce and 2 tsp fish sauce
1 1/2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
Optional: Instead of 5-spice powder, you can substitute with curry powder. Instead of ground beef, you can use thinly sliced beef and marinate as usual.
Pluck and wash la lot. Set aside.
I prefer making my own ground beef for this because it's less fatty, but packaged will work as well. Adding a little bit of pork provides juiciness as I find beef sometimes dry. After grinding your own meat in a food processor, add 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tblsp soy sauce, and 1 1/2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder. Mix thoroughly. Pop a little bit of the meat into the microwave for about 30 seconds or so to cook. Taste. Adjust seasonings if necessary. I re-did the photos for this post and used sliced beef. Minced or sliced beef both work. Place a small spoonful of meat on each leaf and roll.
If you don't want to waste the little leaves, I put them in the middle of a larger leaf and roll.
Place the wrap folded side down.
Grill or pan-fry.
The leaves will start to wilt and the most intoxicating fragrance will be released. These are incredibly addicting! Serve with rice or with a plate of herbs and rice paper, and mam nem for dipping.
If you have a bunch of leaves left over, you can make Bo Xao La Lot (Vietnamese Sauteed Beef with Wild Betel Leaves).
My other leaf-wrapped recipes:
Bo Nuong La Nho (Vietnamese Grilled Beef with Grape Leaves)
Bo Nuong La Tia To Dai Han (Vietnamese Grilled Beef with Korean Perilla Leaves)
Canh Bap Cai Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Cabbage Soup)
Dolmades (Greek Grape Leaves Stuffed with Rice, Tomatoes, and Onions)
Mieng Kham (Thai Leaf-Wrapped Snack)
I'm submitting this recipe to Weekend Herb Blogging, a world-wide food blogging event created by Kalyn's Kitchen celebrating herbs, vegetables, or flowers. WHB is hosted this week by Kalyn's Kitchen.
1 year ago today, I could not finish the tooth-achingly sweet cakes from Porto's Bakery - Glendale.