Monday, July 13, 2009

La Lot - Grilled Beef wrapped in wild betel leaves.

The first time that I recall having this dish was at a briefing session for Tony Tan's first Gourmet Tour of Vietnam in 1998.

I had eaten a lot of Vietnamese food in Footscray and Richmond, but never seen these tasty little morsels. The restaurants possibly only served them to their special clients.

The little parcels should be wrapped in wild betel leaves, which can be sourced from Asian grocers, but with a little effort. The traders in Victoria Street in Richmond, in Springavle and in Footscray certainly have sold them to me over the years, but they are generally not obvious and not always available. Some planning may be necessary.

If you want to try the dish, but can't find wild betel leaves then there are alternatives such as perilla (shiso/beefsteak plant), vine leaves, or even large spinach leaves will work.

The taste is enhanced when they are cooked over charcoal as they are in Vietnam, but even when cooked in a frypan, the fat melting and mixing with the leaves and becoming charred gives a superb flavour.

They are worth the effort.

La Lot – Grilled Beef Wrapped in Wild Betel Leaves


1/4 cup red shallots, (or red onion) roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 small red chilli, seeded and roughly chopped
2cm piece lemongrass
500g beef, preferably rump, cut into chunks and partly frozen
100g pork back fat, cut into chunks
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt

30 large “la lot (pepper leaves) or red perilla or grape leaves
Wooden skewers soaked in cold water


Place the shallots, garlic, chilli and lemongrass into the TM bowl and mince for 20 seconds on Speed 8. You may need to scrape down the sides during this process.

Add 300g of the beef and mince by placing the speed control to Closed Lid and hitting Turbo 3 or 4 times. It needs to be a little pasty, not like ground beef.

Remove the mixture and add the remaining beef and pork fat. Again mince by hitting Turbo 3 or 4 times.

Add the oil, fish sauce, sugar and salt to the TM bowl with the remaining beef mixture and blend for 20 seconds on Reverse and Speed 4. You may need to use the spatula through the top to help combine the mix.

Place the betel leaves dark side down on a work surface and place about 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle of the leaf and roll up into a tiny cylinder, making sure that the meat is all covered by the leaf. Thread onto a skewer so that about 6 – 8 cylinders are lined up, side-by side.
Place the skewers in rows along side each other onto greased metal griddles, as shown, if cooking on a charcoal burner.

If you prefer, just cook on a metal plate or even in a frypan.

During cooking, to reduce the likelihood of burning, turn the parcels twice, until cooked through, about 8 – 10 minutes. Watch carefully as they tend to char if the heat is too high.

Serve with greens, rice paper rolls and dipping sauce.

Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce


1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon chilli, seeded and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
pinch salt


Place garlic clove and chilli into TM bowl with sugar and chop for 10 seconds on Speed 8 until fine. Add remaining ingredients and mix all together for 5 seconds on Speed 3.

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