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.
16 whole large Korean sesame leaves, stemmed
2/3 tablespoon finely minced shallots
1 1/3 tablespoons minced garlic
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
White or black sesame seeds
Red bell pepper, finely diced
Pickled shredded carrots and daikon
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.