Thit Bo Nuong La Lot (Beef in Wild Betel Leaf)


500 gm (1 lb) ground lean beef

Seasoning option #1:

60 ml (¼ cup) minced scallion, green and white part
2 teaspoons fish sauce
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Madras curry powder, Sun brand preferred

Seasoning option #2:

2 tablespoons finely minced lemongrass (about 1 medium-small stalk)
2 teaspoons Madras curry powder, Sun brand preferred
60 ml (¼ cup) minced scallion, green and white part
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional, if you want a firm filling that does not ooze while cooking)
About 115 gm (4 oz) la lot leaves with the stems attached, enough to yield 26 to 30 large leaves
1 tablespoon neutral flavoured oil
1 recipe Basic Dipping Sauce (nuoc cham), made with the addition of minced garlic

1. In a bowl, combine the beef with one of the seasoning options and cornstarch. Use your fingers to mix well. Set aside to marinate while you prepare the leaves.

2. Use scissors or your fingers to detach the leaves from their center stems. Make sure to keep the leaf stem attached to the leaf. You’ll need it later for creating the rolls. 

3. Place the leaves shiny side down on a working surface. Take a bit of meat (about 2 tablespoons) and use your hand to shape it into a small olive of sorts. Place the meat on the leaf, about 1/3 of the way below the pointy tip. The length of the olive doesn’t need to span the full width of the leaf because the leaf shrivels during cooking. Then roll up the meat in the leaf and use the little stem to seal it up. The roll will keep its shape. Place the finished roll on a foil-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining leaves until all the beef is used. Rub a bit of oil on each roll when all of them are done.

4. There are three options for cooking:

i.    Broiling: Place an oven rack on the top third of the pre-heated oven oven.  Slip the baking sheet into the oven and   broil for 6 to 8 minutes, turning them  frequently to cook evenly and prevent too much charring of the leaf. 
ii.    Grill: you can also cook the rolls on a stove-top cast iron grill.
iii.    BBQ grill the rolls, prepare a medium charcoal fire (you can hold your hand over the rack for only 4 to 5 seconds) or heat a gas grill to medium. 

5. Transfer to a plate and serve with the dipping sauce.