Grilled beef wrapped in sesame leaves (Bo La Lot)

Grilled or sautéed, these Vietnamese ground beef–stuffed leaves make a fantastic summer hors d’oeuvre or can be served with rice noodles and grilled vegetables for dinner.

Ingredients

2–4 servings

16 whole large Korean sesame leaves, stemmed

Aromatics:

2/3 tablespoon finely minced shallots

1 1/3 tablespoons minced garlic

Meat:

1/4 cup finely minced lemongrass

1 pound 80/20 ground chuck

5 2/3 teaspoons fish sauce

1 1/4 teaspoons five-spice powder

1 1/3 palm (aka coconut) sugar

2/3 teaspoon turmeric powder

6-inch bamboo skewers, presoaked in water overnight

Cooking oil, for brushing

Garnishes:

White or black sesame seeds

Red bell pepper, finely diced

Pickled shredded carrots and daikon

METHOD

Step 1

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to boil over high heat. In a bowl large enough to soak sesame leaves, prepare an ice water bath.

Step 2

Once the water is boiling, boil leaves for 5 seconds, then remove and immediately submerge in ice water bath. Remove leaves, shake off excess water, pat each leaf dry, then drip dry on a bed of paper towels. Because you’re going to use the leaves to wrap the beef, make sure to keep them as whole as possible.

Step 3

Heat wok/pan with a dash of cooking oil over medium-high heat. Sauté shallots for 3 minutes, or until they become translucent. Remove pan from heat, and immediately stir in garlic and lemongrass. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.

Step 4

In the meantime, combine beef, fish sauce, five-spice powder, palm sugar, and turmeric in bowl. Add cooled-down sautéed aromatics (shallots, garlic, lemongrass) and mix.

Step 5

One by one, lay out blanched sesame leaves, shiny-side up, with the top of the leaf pointing away from you. Drop a tablespoon of meat in the lower middle end of the leaf and form a small log widthwise across the stem, then fold in the sides and slowly roll up until closed. Lay flat on a tray and repeat until you’re out of beef or sesame leaves, whichever comes first.

Step 6

Next, skewer as many “logs” with two skewers (or toothpicks), keeping about 1 inch between the parallel skewers. Brush wrapped logs o’ beef with oil. Repeat until all wrapped beef is skewered and oil-brushed.

Step 7

If you have a grill, place directly on a rack over a medium-high flame. Cook for 3 minutes per side, or until the leaves are slightly charred.

Step 8

If you don’t have a grill, sauté in a pan over medium-high heat with some cooking oil. Make sure the pan is hot before adding the skewers—and keep the skewers in place, or the leaves will unravel as they cook.

Step 9

Stack skewers on top of one another in a crisscross pattern. Garnish with sesame seeds and red bell peppers, and serve with a side of pickles to balance out the flavors.

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