Luscious, verdant, exotic, spicy–these words only begin to describe the magic of a Vietnamese culinary tour. From northern Hanoi to southern Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam’s long history is told through its ancient pagodas, lively markets, and delightful people. An immersive sampling of Vietnamese cuisine is one way in which to explore the rainbow of colors within this beautiful country.
Viewing Vietnam through a culinary lens is an immersive experience for the senses. Sweet and sour, salty and spicy; Vietnam’s food is infused with spiritual wonder and traditional practices. Cuisines from this ancient culture call on “The Five Senses,” to dictate how a food should be prepared, presented and enjoyed. Sight, smell, sound, taste and touch are evaluated in every dish, making this country’s cuisine the ultimate in slow-food creation.
Exotic fruits and vegetables abound in Vietnam thanks to the high levels of precipitation and some ingredients are more foreign than others to Western gastronomes, making a trip to Vietnam all the more exciting. In today’s blog, we highlight just one of many tropical ingredients frequently used in Vietnamese Cuisine.
Enjoy these classic Vietnamese dish brought to you by famed celebrity Chef Dzoan Cam Van. To book your own culinary tour of Vietnam, contact us at Access Trips
Cooking with Betel Leaves
These shiny heart shaped leaves are popular in Southeast Asian cooking and are similar in function to a grape leaf. Luckily for us, several Asian markets carry them and they can even be grown in milder climates in the United States. Betel grows in shady areas and is best harvested young. Their spicy taste lends them well to frying, and that’s where you’ll often find them in Vietnamese cuisines.
Have we left you hungering for more? Below you’ll find a traditional recipe for grilled beef and betel leaves, which guests learn to make with famed chef Nguyen Dzoan Cam Van on our signature Vietnam tour.
Grilled Beef in Betel Leaves
Recipe by Chef Dzoan Cam Van
* Betel leaves can be found at Vietnamese and Asian markets. They are sometimes called “la lot.”
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 8 – 10minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Yields: Approximately 25 rolls
A classic Vietnamese appetizer of fragrant grilled rolls of beef wrapped in betel leaves
- 25 – 30 betel leaves
- 1/2 pound ground beef
- 1/4 pound ground pork
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon chopped lemongrass
- 1 teaspoon chopped betel leaves
- 1 teaspoon chopped shallot
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons of pineapple juice
- 5 tablespoons of sugar
- 2 tablespoons of shrimp paste (or fish sauce)
- 1 clove chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon chopped lemongrass
- 2 small, thin Asian chilies, seeded and finely chopped
- Mix the ground pork and beef together
- Add all ingredients through salt to meat mixture and set aside to marinate
- Remove stems from betel leaves. Place betel leaves matted side up
- Scoop 2 tablespoons of meat mixture onto the betel leaf and mold into a sausage shape
- Place “sausage” across the top of the leaf and roll towards the stem.
- Affix with bamboo skewer
- Grill on medium-low heat, turning frequently, for approximately 8 minutes OR until the rolls feel firm and the leaves have shriveled a bit.
- Serve with dipping sauce
Dipping sauce: Combine pineapple juice, sugar, shrimp paste, garlic, lemongrass and chilies with 1/2 cup of warm water