© Stephanie Meyer
Bo la lot is one of my favorite Vietnamese foods and a global fan favorite as well. Whether you use wild betel leaves, grape leaves (which I think work equally well) or even chard or kale, the authenticity meter won’t redline. This is one of those treats that you can truly make your own way, just like every Vietnamese grandmother does. Traditionally, these are made with the betel leaf (la lot) and it’s this amazing leaf that many cooks feel makes the dish. They all adore the aroma of Piper sarmentosum that makes you literally hunger for these rolls as they are cooking.
If you can find betel leaf, go for it. They are shiny on one side and matte on the other. They are small but pliable, and when grilled or broiled after stuffing, they exude a special earthy aroma. Real la lot (pronounced “lah-loht”) is not easy to find in smaller cities; it is found only at Asian markets on little trays and can be kept in a wet paper towel in a plastic bag in the fridge for a few days, if need be.
I became hooked on these little beauties when I lived in New York, and when I cook them at home in Minnesota, I can’t make enough of them for the neighborhood kids. They are the perfect snack for children, and the adults in the house devour handfuls with plenty of icy beer or buckets of cold, crisp, fruity white wine. They are an ideal summertime entertaining lifesaver.