This Vietnamese-inspired dish consists of betel leaves filled with tofu and infused with aromatics like lemongrass, garlic, and shallots. The rolls are then cooked until crispy and served with a delicious pineapple dipping sauce!
📘 What is Bò Lá Lốt
Bò lá lốt is a Vietnamese dish that consists of beef rolled in betel leaves and grilled over a barbecue or pan-fried. Translating the name of this dish is quite difficult, "cuốn lá lốt" would translate to betel leaves rolls, while "Bò lá lốt" would mean betel leaves beef.
Once cooked, the leaves get a subtle peppery flavor and a chewy texture. Bò lá lốt is often served rolled in rice paper with vermicelli woven, cucumber, roasted peanuts, and pineapple slices, and then dipped into a sauce.
🥣 How to Make Grilled Betel Leaves
This recipe is quite easy, and the only ingredient you might have to look for is wild betel leaves, but if you have Asian stores near you, that shouldn't be a problem!
Let's start with the filling, here is what you will need:
- Tofu - Use firm tofu, or medium tofu if you prefer a softer texture. Not a fan of tofu? Feel free to replace it with vegan ground meat or finely shredded vegan chicken for an even meatier texture!
- Betel leaves - Pick the fresh and large wild betel leaves. Most Asian grocery stores carry them, it is sold in the refrigerated section.
- Lemongrass - Lemongrass brings a fresh and lemony flavor to the rolls. You can use fresh lemongrass stalks, or chopped frozen lemongrass if you want to save time.
- Vegan oyster sauce - For umami and some sweetness. You can use homemade oyster sauce or store-bought stir-fry sauce.
- Black mushrooms - These black mushrooms are sold dried and need to be rehydrated for a few minutes before using.
- Shallots and garlic
- Ground black pepper - To spice up a little bit the filling.
- Five spice - Five-spice powder is optional, but it brings more flavor and a subtle anise aroma.
- Roasted peanuts - For topping, simply omit for a nut-free option.
To prepare the filling, crumble the tofu in a bowl. Add the chopped lemongrass, garlic, shallots, shredded black mushrooms, and the aromatics. Mix until fully combined. The mixture should not be completely smooth, keep some larger tofu chunks for more texture.
Now that the filling is ready, let's make the rolls!
- Arrange a betel leaf on a cutting board or working surface, shiny side face down.
- Place a heaping tablespoon of the tofu mixture on the bottom of the leaf.
- Fold the right and left edges of the leaf over the tofu filling.
- Roll it up tightly and thread the roll on a small skewer.
- Repeat with the remaining tofu filling and betel leaves.
To cook the betel leaves, you can either pan-fry them in a skillet for a few minutes until slightly browned, or place them on a barbecue to grill them.
🫓 How to Eat It
There are a few different ways you can enjoy these rolls:
- In spring rolls: Probably the most classic way. Wet a sheet of rice paper, top with cooked rice vermicelli (or vermicelli woven), a few slices of cucumber, pineapple, fresh herbs, and one or two betel leaves rolls. Roll the rice paper tightly and dip into the sauce. You can learn more about the dipping sauce below.
- On top of noodles or rice: These rolls make a delicious and high-protein topping for rice noodles or steamed rice.
- As is: Simply dip the rolls in your favorite dipping sauce!
🍍 Dipping Sauce
The dipping sauce is almost as important as the rolls and brings a ton of flavor. This is just one version of the sauce I am giving below, but you can definitely use your favorite dipping sauce. To prepare the sauce, you will need:
- Fermented bean paste - Also called "salted soybean sauce" or "soybean paste", this salty sauce can be found in almost all Asian stores, or you can get soybean paste online.
- Chao - Also known as fermented tofu, or fermented bean curd, you can learn how to make you own chao here, or buy chao online.
- Pineapple - For sweetness and a subtle fruitiness.
- Lemongrass - For a citrusy flavor.
- Garlic - Use fresh garlic cloves. Garlic powder would not yield the same flavor.
- Chili - Optional, if you want some heat.
To prepare the sauce, sauté the lemongrass, garlic and chili for a few minutes. Next, add the finely chopped pineapple, fermented bean paste, and chao. Dilute with a couple of tablespoons of water, and serve!
While this Vietnamese dish is not one of the most famous, it definitely deserves more recognition! The rolls are chewy with a tender filling and a delicate peppery flavor, serve with the dipping sauce for a super flavorful dish!
Grilled Wild Betel Leaves (Cuốn Lá Lốt)
- 14 ounces firm tofu or vegan ground meat
- 2 tablespoon dry minced wood ear mushrooms
- 1 shallot minced
- 1 clove of garlic minced
- 1 and ½ tablespoon finely chopped lemongrass
- 1 tablespoon vegan oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon soy sauce
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon five-spice powder
- 9 large fresh wild betel leaves
- 3 tablespoon roasted peanuts roughly chopped
- Optional: cucumber slices, rice noodles, cilantro, rice paper
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 2 tablespoon minced lemongrass
- 1 clove of garlic minced
- 1 Thai chili minced, optional
- ¼ cup soybean paste
- ½ cup finely chopped pineapple
- 1 tablespoon fermented tofu (chao)
- 2 tablespoon water
- Soak the dry wood ear mushrooms in hot water for 2-3 minutes. Rinse and drain very well. Mince the mushrooms and set aside.
- Drain the tofu very well and finely crumble it in a bowl. Add the minced mushrooms, shallot, garlic, lemongrass, vegan oyster sauce, sugar, soy sauce, salt, ground black pepper, and five spice powder.
- Using a spoon, mix the tofu with the seasonings, until fully combined. Taste and adjust saltiness if needed.
- To roll: Lay a betel leaf on a working surface or cutting board, shiny face down. Place a heaping tablespoon of the tofu filling on the bottom of the leaf and shape it into a cylinder. Fold the sides of the leaf over the tofu filling and roll it up tightly.
- Thread the roll on a small skewer and repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.
- To cook: Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the skewers and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown and slightly charred. Flip the skewers and cook for another 3-4 minutes on the other side.
- Top with roasted peanuts and serve warm or at room temperature. You can served as is, or rolled in rice paper with cucumber slices, rice noodles, pineapple, and cilantro.
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the lemongrass, garlic, and chili. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant. Keep an eye on it, you don't want to burn the lemongrass.
- Next, pour in the soybean paste, chopped pineapple, fermented tofu, and the water to dilute. Let simmer for 1-2 minutes and remove from heat. Taste the sauce, if it's too thick or too salty, dilute with more water.