Beef Grilled in Betel Leaves

Mary Aregoni

Saigon Sisters, Chicago

Nearly every cuisine features a dish of meats or vegetables wrapped and cooked in leaves. One Vietnamese version is this delicious dish, in which a seasoned beef mixture is wrapped in the distinctly peppery and floral betel leaves (la lot, in Vietnamese).

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour



1 lemongrass stalk, tender parts finely chopped

One 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped  

4 scallions, finely chopped  

2 teaspoons fish sauce

1 teaspoon brown sugar  

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 pound ground beef chuck  

24 large or 48 small Betel leaves (can substitute for grape, perilla, or shiso leaves)  

Canola oil


In a large bowl, add the lemongrass, ginger, garlic, scallions, fish sauce, sugar, salt, pepper, cornstarch, and sesame oil, and mix until well combined. Gently fold in the ground beef with your hands until the marinade is evenly distributed. Cover the bowl and refrigerate, for a minimum of 15 minutes and up to 8 hours.  

Preheat the broiler with the rack in the top third position or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Line a rimmed sheet pan with foil and set aside. 

On a clean work surface, lay out one large or two small betel leaves, placed side by side, with some overlap, matte side up. Place two tablespoons of the meat mixture in the center, roll the leaf around the meat and secure the ends with a toothpick. The ends of the meat may be slightly exposed. Repeat this method, and place the rolls on the prepared sheet pan. Lightly brush each roll with the canola oil and spread them out in a single layer.

If broiling the rolls, cook the wrapped leaves in the prepared sheet pan under the broiler, rotating once or twice until they are lightly charred on all sides and the meat is cooked through, about 8 minutes total. If grilling, cook until the rolls are lightly charred all over cooked through, turning once or twice, for about 5 minutes total. Serve with vermicelli, greenleaf lettuce, mint, cilantro, sliced cucumbers, and nuoc cham dipping sauce.


6 servings as an appetizer, about 20 pieces

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