Vietnamese bo la lot: yummy grilled pork and betel skewers

These grilled pork and betel leaf skewers are a delicious treat… We bought fresh betel leaves and were so excited to finally make bo la lot at home!

Have you ever heard of bo la lot before?

Bo la lot is a Vietnamese dish that consists of beef or pork marinated in a mixture of fish sauce, garlic and shallots.

The meat is wrapped in fresh betel leaves and grilled.

Those leaves add a unique flavor to the dish and make it very fragrant.

Bo la lot is typically served with bun rice vermicelli noodles, crushed peanuts, raw vegetables and a dipping sauce.

Check our bo la lot recipe below!

What are betel leaves?

Betel leaves are the leaves of the betel pepper plant, which is native to Southeast Asia and India.

The leaves are commonly used in South and Southeast Asian cultures for their stimulant and medicinal properties.

They are chewed for their nutty flavor, and often mixed with other ingredients such as lime, areca nut, and tobacco.

What does bo la lot taste like?

Well that is a hard question!

Let’s try to describe that very specific flavor.

Betel leaf has a distinctive flavor that is slightly sweet, slightly sour, a little peppery and slightly bitter. It is often described as having menthol-like or eucalyptus-like notes.

The dish called bo la lot has a savory and slightly sweet flavor. The betel leaves are usually wrapped around a mixture of ground pork, garlic, shallots and fish sauce.

The mixture is then grilled, giving this dish its signature smoky flavor.

What other dishes contain this betel leaf?

Betel leaf is commonly used in Indian, Pakistani and Southeast Asian cuisines.

It is often used as a wrap for snacks, such as samosas or as a flavoring and garnish for curries and other dishes.

In Thailand, betel leaf is used to wrap an appetizer called miang kham.

It is also used as a wrap for Vietnamese spring rolls and as an extra flavor for some dishes in Indonesia.

Is betel leaf healthy?

Betel leaves are generally considered to be healthy, as they are a good source of vitamins and minerals.

They have been used as traditional medicine in many cultures for centuries, and are thought to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.

However, it is important to note that betel leaves are sometimes chewed with other ingredients, such as tobacco, which can be harmful to your health.

Where can I buy betel leaves?

Betel leaves are not typically found in supermarkets and for that reason not widely available in Europe or the US.

You may be able to find them though in specialty shops or Asian supermarkets that sell Indian, Persian, or Southeast Asian ingredients.

Betel leaves can be purchased online.

So what about the fresh betel leaves that we used for our bo la lot recipe below?

We bought those in a well known Asian supermarket in Paris called Tang Frères.

What can I use instead of betel leaves to make your bo la lot recipe?

If you don’t have access to fresh betel leaves, you can substitute them with other large leaves such as cabbage, collard greens, kale or lettuce.

These leaves can be cooked and wrapped around the same mixture of pork, garlic, shallots and fish sauce before being grilled.

Goes without saying that you won’t achieve the same smoky flavors though, these fresh betel leaves have a very specific taste.

Our tasty bo la lot recipe with pork mince

Ingredients for 4 people

  • ½ lb (250 g) raw ground pork
  • 16 to 20 fresh betel leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 soaked wooden skewers

Instructions

  1. Rinse the betel leaves well (they can often be a little sandy) and pat them dry again with kitchen paper or a clean kitchen towel.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium high heat.
  3. Add the garlic and shallots and sautée until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Take the pan off the heat and let the garlic and shallot cool down fully.
  5. Transfer the ground pork to a large mixing bowl and add the fish sauce, sugar and the cooled garlic and shallots. Mix well.
  6. Place them on your kitchen counter and add a teaspoon of the pork mixture in the centre of each leaf.
  7. Carefully wrap the betel leaves around the pork mixture. The leaves are fragile and break easily.
  8. Thread 4 to 5 wrapped betel leaves on each skewer, depending on how many you made.
  9. Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.
  10. Place the bo la lot wraps on the grill and cook them until the leaves turn a golden brown color and the pork is cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  11. Serve warm and enjoy!

With what to serve bo la lot?

Bo la lot is typically served with bun rice vermicelli noodles, crushed peanuts, fried onion, raw vegetables (lettuce, green beans, cucumber, carrot) and a zippy dipping sauce.

You can also serve it with rice paper and make fresh spring rolls with it.

Soak the rice paper in water, then wrap the bo la lot and any other ingredients (rice noodles, fresh herbs or vegetables) of your choice in it.

Dip the fresh spring roll in dipping sauce and enjoy!

Why do peope chew betel leaf?

Betel leaf is chewed for its stimulant and psychoactive effects.

It is also chewed for its medicinal properties and for its ability to freshen breath and clean teeth.

Betel leaf is believed to have many health benefits, such as reducing inflammation, improving digestion, and helping to treat respiratory diseases.

But don’t worry: eating bo la lot will not produce any psychoactive effects or make you high.

Can I make vegetarian bo la lot?

Yes, you can make vegetarian bo la lot.

As a substitute for the beef, pork or seafood, you can use ingredients such as tofu, mushrooms or other vegetables as your filling.

To make vegetarian bo la lot, marinate the vegetables (or the filling of your choice) in garlic, fish sauce, sugar and pepper. Then wrap each vegetable in one betel leaf and pan fry them until cooked through.

Enjoy!

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