Restaurant: Anh Hong
City: Milpitas, CA
This was one of the dishes in Anh Hong’s bò 7 món. Four out of the 7 courses of beef were on a single plate, with shrimp chips.
The bottom row of beef are grilled minced beef wrapped in piper lot leaf (betel leaf). The minced beef also contain peanuts. Below is a cropped photo of above, for a closer look.
Read on for more info about bò lá lót, from The Ravenous Couple:
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.
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 (vermicelli 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. 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.