I'm home in Montréal visiting my family and also to attend a wedding. Even though I told my mom I didn't want to eat too much before the wedding, my mom had planned a nice (big!) dinner: bò lá lốt (beef stuffed betel leaves) and bánh tôm (shrimp cakes). That's on top of the bánh củ cải (turnip cake) that was awaiting me when I arrived!
I had asked my mom to teach me (after the wedding) how to make bò lá lốt (beef stuffed betel leaves). I associate bò lá lốt with summer because my mom grills it on her charcoal BBQ (although it could be done in the oven too). Ground beef (bò) is stuffed in lá lốt, or wild betel leaf in English. I was getting confused with the term betel leaf because I thought it also referred to a leaf that gets chewed with a nut and makes the mouth go red; I saw old ladies do this in Vietnam. My mom insisted this is different and is called lá trầu in Vietnamese. Wandering Chopsticks' bò lá lốt post explains the difference between wild betel leaf and betel leaf.
Bò Lá Lốt (Beef Stuffed Wild Betel Leaves) - Makes about 60
Wild betel leaves can be found at Asian grocery stores. My mom bought 4 bags at $0.99 per bag. When she was unable to find them years ago, I remember my mom using grape leaves from our garden. While a betel leaf has its own unique fragrance, grape leaves work just as well! The ground beef can be seasoned to your taste. My mom likes the additon of sesame seeds, though I found out in Vietnam that this is not traditional.
* 1 kg extra lean ground beef
* 4 tsp minced lemongrass (can be purchased frozen)
* 2 tsp salt
* 3 tbsp sugar
* 2 tsp garlic
* ¼ tsp five spice powder
* 2 tbsp sesame oil
* 2 tbsp sesame seeds (or to taste)
* approximately 60 betel leaves, washed and dried
* 5-6 bamboo skewers, pre-soaked in water if you want
Combine the meat and all of the ingredients, except the betel leaves.
Lay a betel leaf on a plate, with the tip of the leaf at the top. (Refer to pictures below.)
Spoon 2-3 teaspoons of the meat mixture at the base of the leaf, leaving an inch or so.
Shape the beef into a little log.
Fold the base of the leaf over the meat and then fold each side over (for smaller leaves, you can leave the sides open).
Roll the little package up.
Place a skewer through the tip of the leaf and through the meat.
Repeat until you fill a skewer.
Grill 2-3 minutes per side.
Serve with bún (rice vermicelli), lettuce, cucumber, herbs and fish sauce dipping sauce.
Placing ground beef mixture on the betel leaf.
Folding the sides of the leaf down.
Rolling and pinning it through with a skewer.
Ready to be grilled.