Bo la lot – Betel Leaf Wrapped Beef

bo la lot, betel leaf wrapped beef

Betel plants originated from Southeast Asia and has been cultivated for thousands of years. High in antioxidants, their uses have included, but are not limited to medicinal healing, stimulants, and even breath fresheners. In India, it’s even consider an aphrodisiac. The betel plant is part of the pepper family and includes two varieties, piper sarmentosum and piper betle.

In Vietnamese culture, the piper betle is also called trau and is used to “begin the converstation”…in other words, helps break the ice in awkward situations among adults as these were passed around as it were chewing gum…of course this was in the days of our grandparent’s generation and not so much any more today due to the unflattering staining of teeth black when chewing these leaves with the areca nut.

Betel leaves also have symbolic meaning in traditional Vietnamese weddings where the groom would offer betel leaves among other gifts to the bride’s family. Hence the Vietnamese phrase chuyện trầu cau meaning “matters of betel and areca,” is synonymous with marriage.

bo la lot, betel leaf wrapped beef 

Aside from these cultural significance, the piper sarmentosum– also called la lot or wild betel leaves, are very popular in Vietnamese cuisine as well. Bo la lot is beef wrapped in betel leaves which are typically grilled over a charcoal flame and is served as part of bo bay mon (seven courses of beef), with bun (vermicilli noodles), wrapped in lettuce rolls, wrapped in rice paper as a spring roll, or served on it’s own as appetizers. In raw form there is not much of a fragrance, but when grilled, the betel leaves impart a wonderful herbacious and slightly peppery aroma to the beef. The aroma is truly unique and it also helps to seal in the beef’s moisture and juices. Other Asian cultures use la lot to make salads as well as soups. Fresh and frozen betel leaves can be found at your Asian grocery. If you can’t find them, substitute with perilla (shiso).

Traditionally ground beef is used, but you can use other ground meats (such as pork or chicken) as well. I decided to combine chicken and beef and it turned out great especially when I have some friends that can’t eat pork. Bo la lot is usually served alongside with dipping sauce, typically nuoc mam cham but we’ve even seen mam nem, or peanut sauce used.

Bo La Lot (Betel Wrapped Beef) This recipe can make about 20-24 rolls.
Printable Recipe

  • 1 lb of ground beef (or you can also use a mixture such 1/2 beef and pork or 1/2 beef and chicken)
  • 1/2 tablespoon of finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon of finely minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon of curry powder
  • 2 tablespoon of chopped lemon grass
  • 2 teaspoons of fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of cracked pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 package of fresh or frozen betel leaves (if none availble, use perilla leaves. If using frozen betel leaves, allow to defrost outside and separate leaves and allow to dry slightly on paper towels before wrapping )
  • 3 tablespoons roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons of scallion oil (heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil, remove from heat and add finely chopped scallions)

In a large bowl, combine meat with garlic, shallots, lemongrass, curry, fish sauce, sugar, pepper and salt and mix well and set aside in fridge and prepare leaves.

bo la lot

 

To prepare the leaves, detach the leaves from their stems and roll with glossy side facing down. Place a generous 1 tablespoon full of meat near the base of the leave and shape accordingly. Roll the base over making sure that the length of the meat doesn’t exceed the width of the leaf. Secure the apex of the leaf with a tiny bit of meat mixture, using it as a paste. Use a scissor to cut of any excess ends of betel leaf.

 

bo la lot, betel leaf wrapped beef

There are multiple options when cooking bo la lot. In Vietnam, these are grilled over small charcoal ovens, but you have multiple great options. You can grill using skewers or a grilling basket or broil in the oven for about 6-8 minutes, turning a few times to prevent the leaves from burning.

You can also just sautee these with a bit of oil in a pan, or what we did was sauteed it about 2 minutes to keep the meat moist and then quickly seared it on the grill to char the leaves. Flip once to prevent the leaves from burning.

bo la lot, betel leaf wrapped beef

Top with dry roasted peanuts and scallion oil and serve immediately. We served ours with bun thit nuong, and cha gio (egg rolls).

bo la lot

Our parents actually recently met. I wish I had something like betel leaves to break the ice during the initial awkward moments… :)

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50 Responses to “Bo la lot – Betel Leaf Wrapped Beef”

  1. 1

    Anh — August 9, 2009 @ 7:33 pm

    A wonderful entry!! I love this dish but have not had my hands on betel leaves for a while now. Now I am having serious craving!

  2. 2

    A. Rizzi — August 10, 2009 @ 1:55 am

    great post. The aroma of grilled betel leaves is unmistakable on the streets of Sai Gon. B.T.W. I finally grubbed (and blogged) the mussel dish with banh da..so tasty. Thanks for the rec!

  3. 3

    nikkipolani — August 10, 2009 @ 2:16 am

    This is something my mom has never made but we've eaten it at restaurants before (bo bay mon, and what have you). Thanks for the primer and gorgeous photos to tempt me to give it a try.

  4. 4

    Ravenous Couple — August 10, 2009 @ 5:42 am

    Anh: Thank you! Try perilla (tia to) leaves–that's what my mom loves to use instead of betel leaves.

    A. Rizzi: We're so envious of your travels in Vietnam and keep on eating and posting.

    nikki: thanks for reminding us about bo bay mon. It's really easy–let us know if you give bo la lot a try!

  5. 5

    Ellie — August 10, 2009 @ 10:18 am

    I love batel leaves but never had it with beef. I am so tempted to make tis dish but first I have to find uot where i can buy batel leaves in sydney.

  6. 6

    Cookin' Canuck — August 10, 2009 @ 1:28 pm

    I was not familiar with batel leaves before reading this post. Now I'm going to seek them out at my local Asian grocer so that I can make this recipe. I love the history behind the meaning of the leaves!

  7. 7

    Gastronomer — August 10, 2009 @ 7:00 pm

    This is one of Vern's all-time fave Viet dishes! Maybe I'll surprise him with a homemade batch one of these days ;-) Thanks for the recipe!

  8. 8

    Ravenous Couple — August 11, 2009 @ 2:43 am

    Ellie: Hopefully either you or Anh can find it and let each other know! :)

    Cookin'Canuck: The stock of betel leaves in Asian markets can be hit or miss. Try perilla/shiso leaves which also adds a great aroma as well.

    Gastronomer: Invite us over too if you make bo la lot! :)

  9. 9

    Tim — August 11, 2009 @ 11:03 am

    I've tried to find Betel leaves in some of the Chinese grocery stores around here with no luck — I should really check out some of Vietnamese groceries! I was searching for them for a different recipe, but these look great. Rest assured I'll be using this recipe for whatever leaves are left over.

  10. 10

    Ravenous Couple — August 11, 2009 @ 4:19 pm

    Tim: If they don't have fresh betel leaves, try the frozen section. We've used frozen betel leaves before in this dish and it works great. Also, Perilla/Shiso is a great substitute.

  11. 11

    Lori — August 11, 2009 @ 6:58 pm

    That looks totally amazing and delicious.

  12. 12

    Ravenous Couple — August 12, 2009 @ 4:04 am

    Lori: Thank you! Let us know if you ever try to make bo la lot.

  13. 13

    The Woman — September 6, 2009 @ 5:57 pm

    These look delicious. Unfortunately I don't think I'll be able to find betel or perillo or shiso leaves here. :-( I will keep an eye out for them though and if I do find some, this will be the first thing I make!

  14. 14

    Ravenous Couple — September 7, 2009 @ 3:08 pm

    The Woman: Betel leaves can also be found in the frozen section and works just as well. So check out your local Asian market in S. Africa and let us know if you ever try this! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  15. 15

    Jessica@Foodmayhem — October 12, 2009 @ 2:10 pm

    This reminds me that I have not yet had the 7 courses of beef and need to! We just don't have the same quality of Vietnamese restaurants in NY. Sigh…This is such a beautiful illustration of this dish. It practically looks like a dream.

    Now that the parents have met…shall we assume what's coming next?

  16. 16

    Ravenous Couple — October 12, 2009 @ 3:10 pm

    Jessica: We'll see..*wink* Thank you! Bo la lot is definitely one of our favorite courses in 7 course beef.

  17. 17

    global peasant — January 17, 2010 @ 12:33 am

    These look good enough to eat! You two are my heroes for making Saveur's top 100 with your betel leaves.

  18. 18

    Suffering — March 31, 2010 @ 3:41 pm

    Do you know if this can be made in advance and frozen or maybe it's not such a good idea because of the leaves?

  19. 19

    Ravenous Couple — March 31, 2010 @ 3:44 pm

    Suffering: it might work! many places sell frozen betel leaves if they don't have access to fresh ones, so we think it's definitely possible to make these and freeze them with the betel leaf.

  20. 20

    Cynthia — April 19, 2010 @ 3:33 am

    I made this today and it was sooo good! Thanks for sharing such an awesome recipe! :)

  21. 21

    Ravenous Couple — April 19, 2010 @ 3:38 am

    cynthia: So glad you enjoyed this recipe!! Thank you for telling us about it!

  22. 22

    Anonymous — April 26, 2010 @ 5:33 am

    Hi there. I accidentally stumbled upon your blog recently and love it. The photographs are also great. Keep on blogging.

    AN

  23. 23

    Anonymous — October 27, 2010 @ 3:33 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your recipe. I made this last night and it turned out wonderful. My boyfriend gave me so compliments and just praised me for a job well done. I have you guys to thank so once again, Thank you for sharing your recipe. BTW, I love your site. Keep up the great work.

  24. 24

    Lan Chiang — May 5, 2011 @ 1:47 pm

    Hi! Love your recipes! Which curry powder do you use for the bo la lot? Red or yellow?

    • The Ravenous Couple replied: — May 5th, 2011 @ 2:55 pm

      Hi Lan, thanks! we used the yellow curry powder, but if if you have red it should be okay too!

  25. 25

    Nam @ The Culinary Chronicles — June 27, 2011 @ 8:58 pm

    DOH! I was considering making this for Delicious VN next month but you guys beat me to the punch! lol! Looks delish and is one of my favs! :)

    • The Ravenous Couple replied: — June 28th, 2011 @ 1:46 pm

      theres no rule for delicious vn, just make what you like!

  26. 26

    Lan — July 16, 2011 @ 4:40 pm

    I just love this, and I have made three times after I found this recipes, it’s delicious, can I copy it to my qzone(qzone like spaces)

  27. 27

    TASTE TEST | Miss Saigon Coral Gables « Mangia! Memoirs — July 29, 2011 @ 1:38 pm

    [...] Bo La Lot – Beef wraps [...]

  28. 28

    TASTE TEST | Miss Saigon Coral Gables | MANGIA! MEMOIRS — August 14, 2011 @ 3:13 pm

    [...] Bo La Lot – Beef wraps [...]

  29. 29

    Vegan Bo La Lot Recipe | Gluten-free | Sugar-free — October 29, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

    [...] Lot, a Vietnamese grilled appetizer made from seasoned ground beef wrapped in an exotic betel leaf. Read this post from The Ravenous Couple for a wonderful history of the meaning behind this dish. An email to one [...]

  30. 30

    Vivien — November 12, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

    Hello,

    Did you treat the betelnut leaves before rolling them with the beef inside?

    Thanks and looking forward to trying your recipe. The pictures look great!

    -Vivien

  31. 31

    Helen Leong — January 21, 2012 @ 1:40 am

    Really appreciate your passion for Vietnamese dishes. Keep up the good work in preserving traditional recipes for posterity especially generations of overseas Vietnamese. Just to point out to you that for Bo La Lot, the leaves used here are not the same as the La Trau which is stated in your commentary. It’s a different variety though of the same family. La Lot in Vietnamese is the same as Daun Kaduk in Malaysian & Indonesian whilst La Trau is Daun Sireh. The Malays also have their tradition of Trau Cau that is Macam Sireh Dan Pinang which means Like a Perfect Match (Pinang is betel nut (Cau).)

  32. 32

    Deb — February 23, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

    These turned out great! So glad I found this recipe as the nearest good vietnamese restaurant is about 2 hours away.

  33. 33

    Thuy — April 7, 2012 @ 7:25 am

    I think there is a mistake when the author tried to bring ” the betel leaf from Chuyen Trau Cau” to that food. Betel leaf by vnese is “Trau” and the leaf in this food is “Lot”…They have the same looking but different taste and we never use ” Trau” leaf to cook. Just only “Lot”…
    I love cooking and if there’s a new cooking recipe..I think I will try..But can not imagine how it will be..Hope it tastes well… :)

  34. 34

    Thuy — April 7, 2012 @ 7:27 am

    Hihi..And i agree with Helen Leong…

  35. 35

    Anna — June 16, 2012 @ 3:47 am

    I just made this recipe last night. I accidentally bought lamb, so I doubled the spices to make up for it. It was lamby but still DELICIOUS!!! Thank you!!

  36. 36

    Saigon Trip - Dalat Town; The Highlands Escapade | Motormouth From Ipoh - Malaysian Food & Travel — September 5, 2012 @ 7:26 am

    [...] fish balls, skewered beef and pork, as well as the Vietnamese classic street food named “Bo La Lot“, or betel leaf-wrapped beef from this roadside stall near Dalat Market set up over charcoal [...]

  37. 37

    Kimberly — October 21, 2012 @ 12:27 pm

    Can’t wait to try this recipe. I love your website….

  38. 38

    Lily — October 28, 2012 @ 7:55 pm

    Can this be made ahead and freeze?

  39. 39

    Sophie Q — July 12, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

    It looks delicous. Can you please tell me which markets have frozen la lop? I have gone to all the Asian markets in the San Gabriel area, and none of them carry frozen or fresh la lop – betel leaf.

    Thank you-
    sophie

    • The Ravenous Couple replied: — July 19th, 2013 @ 9:52 am

      it can be hit or miss, maybe try little saigon markets?

  40. 40

    Garcinia Cambogia extract — August 9, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

    Hmm it looks like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying
    your blog. I too am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any suggestions for first-time blog writers? I’d certainly appreciate it.

  41. 41

    Phi — August 25, 2013 @ 3:41 pm

    First time I made w/o betel leaves, it tasted fine. Second time, I made with betel leaves, it came out so deliciuos. Betel leaves probably bring out the aroma of the dish . Thanks Kim and Hong for this recipe.

  42. 42

    lucky — September 10, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

    You can find betel leafs in indian grocery stores ,esp around time of indian festivals. This is important part of many festivals.

    we generally eat betel leaf after a mean along with betel nuts.

    we also prepare dumpling with this.

    chick pea flour -2 tsp
    water – required to wet chickpeaflour (like pancake batter ,not too runny)

    add salt ,pepper to that batter

    heat 1 cup oil in a pan

    dip in betel leaves ,in batter and transfer that to pan.
    fry it till golden color.

  43. 43

    Ch-ch-ch-chia! Pudding! | Baking and Math — September 19, 2013 @ 11:17 pm

    […] that American grandmas make, based on the comments at allrecipes.  My Vietnamese grandma made me beef wrapped in betel leaves and sticky rice in banana leaves from our backyard.  So a little bit far from the all-American […]

  44. 44

    dzung — October 25, 2013 @ 11:32 am

    I have my dam hoi this weekend and am planning on making this too (yes i’m making my own food for the party… it’s just more fun that way!)! It’s the first time our parents are meeting… i’m nervous about those awkward moments too!! hope the betel leaves will help break the ice. heheh.. :)

    • The Ravenous Couple replied: — November 10th, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

      wow, hope it went well! good luck!

  45. 45

    Southern Vietnam: Bò Lá Lót | Food Touring — February 27, 2014 @ 12:13 am

    […] Read on for more info about bò lá lót, from The Ravenous Couple: […]

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