Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Bo La Lot or is it Bo Vap Ca?

On a recent road trip out to the Vancouver, I had the opportunity to dine at Song Huong Vietnamese Restaurant (1613 Nanaimo Street) which offers traditional Pho and Bun, as well as Huế cuisine - a style of food rarely found in the Vietnamese restaurants I had frequented in Canada. On the menu was Bo 7 Mon, a special Vietnamese feast of beef prepared in seven ways: 1) Thinly-sliced pieces of meat dipped in a vinegar fondue with rice wrappers, mixed herbs (La Lot, Rau Ram, Thai Basil), small pickled onions, daikon and carrot, green banana slices, cucumber, bean sprouts, lettuce, and vermicelli - all accompanied by an anchovy-based sauce garnished with sliced lemongrass, chili, and peanuts; 2) 3) 4) Various beef 'sausages', some wrapped in the La Lot leaf; 5) Beef salad with grilled beef strips over vinegary shredded vegetables; 6) Beef Congee; and 7) Beef Ball wrapped in caul. It was an essentially satisfying meal that was very inexpensive ($25.95) since it could feed 3 hungry adults. It was also a lot of fun as you had to 'work' at making your own meal: cooking the sliced beef, dipping the rice wrappers, and deciding which of the fresh ingredients to add into your rice wrap. I also got to try a glutinous tapioca-based Huế dumpling that was filled with dried shrimp and pork and wrapped in banana leaves. It was great to sample a broader range of Vietnamese dishes, beyond the ubiquitous Pho.

My favourite of the Bo 7 Mon dishes was Bo La Lot - beef sausages wrapped in peppery La Lot leaves (a delicate relative of the Betel Leaf). Upon reaching home from my journey out West, I just had to try to recreate those tasty little morsels.

Adapting a recipe from Viet World Kitchen, I found the nifty tip of using the La Lot leaf's own stem to seal the sausage to be ingenious.

First, gather all the spices and sauces and placed them in a metal bowl.

Then, incorporate the beef and let the entire mixture sit for a short while as the La Lot Vap Ca (Fish Mint) leaves are prepared.  ** Note: I just found out that the leaf that I had thought to be La Lot is actually Vap Ca.  La Lot is more herbal in flavour while Vap Ca has a pungent, fishy taste.  Nevertheless, these "Bo Vap Ca" taste pretty good, too!

Snip off the larger leaves, ensuring that each leaf stem is intact, and give them a quick wash.

Then, on a work surface, lay down a leaf matte side up (shiny side down), roll a small amount (approximately 1.5 teaspoonfuls, depending on the size of the leaf) of the meat mixture into a sausage and place onto the middle of the leaf. Roll the tip of the leaf over the sausage and secure with the stem.

Line the rolled up Bo La Lot Vap Ca on a foil-lined baking sheet, and brush the tops of the leaves with a little oil. Grill under the broiler for 8-10 minutes, turning often so as not to char the leaves too much.

To serve, a small rice wrapper is dipped quickly into hot water (just a brisk dipping will do as this will ensure that the wrapper is soft yet elastic enough to hold whatever you put inside). A mixture of sweet, purple, and spicy types of basil, La Lot Vap Ca leaves, bean sprouts, chives, cilantro, green leaf lettuce, sambal belacan, and a sauce comprised of anchovy sauce, pineapple, rice vinegar, and fish sauce (Vietnames Dipping Sauce) is placed in the wrapper with a piece of the Bo La Lot Vap Ca. Everything is wrapped up into a tidy package and consumed with gusto, as the flavours burst with sour, spicy, and sweet notes. Delicious!

Bo La Lot (or Bo Vap Ca!)

2 Tablespoons Lemongrass, finely minced (about 1 medium stalk)
1 teaspoon Cumin **
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper **
1 teaspoon Garam Masala **
1/4 cup Scallion, minced
2 teaspoons Fish Sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Oyster Sauce
1/4 teaspoon Salt
3/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Cornstarch (optional, if you want a firmer filling that does not weep as much during cooking)
1 lb Ground Beef

About 4 ounces La Lot leaves with the stems attached, enough to yield 26 to 30 large leaves
1 Tablespoon neutral flavoured oil, for brushing the tops of the leaves

Combine all spices and sauces with the ground beef, and form into little sausage shapes. Roll in the La Lot leaves, and secure with the leaf stems. Brush the tops of each leaf with a little oil. Grill under the broiler for 8-10 minutes, turning often so as not to overly char the leaves.

** Note: An Optional way to prepare Bo La Lot is to use Madras Curry Powder instead of Cumin/Cayenne Pepper/Garam Masala. I used these spices instead as I did not want an overly spicy dish due to having to feed it to my toddler. In addition, other recipes call for the use of Five Spice Powder.

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

1 cup Pineapple, minced (fresh is preferred)
3 Tablespoons Mam Nem (anchovy sauce)
2 Garlic cloves, crushed
1 Red Chili, seeded
1 Tablespoon Sugar
3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Rice Vinegar
3 Tablespoons Nuoc Mam (Fish Sauce)

1 stalk Lemongrass, minced, for garnish

Mix all the ingredients together.

No comments: