It’s lunar new year this weekend and one of my favourite snacks to eat from the street-festival vendors is bò lá lốt, beef wrapped in betel leaves. I’ve recreated it at home, using Luke Nguyen and Mark Jensen’s recipe (via Secrets of the Red Lantern). Nguyen and Jensen use pork mince and pork fat to enhance the flavour, but Luke Nguyen also has a pork-free version up on the SBS website.
Because betel leaf is a such rare commodity in Melbourne, I’ve struck my own with the stalks leftover from cooking. It’s taken three months, but my sole surviving betel leaf cutting is finally producing it’s first big leaves:
To strike betel leaf cuttings, choose stems with nodes. Prepare the stem by stripping all or most of the leaves and then cut at an angle 1-2cm below the node. Nick the stem a little at the cut to increase the stem’s ability to absorb water.
Place stems in a glass part-filled with water and let them sit in a warm spot.
It will take weeks, but eventually roots will start to form.
Once you see the roots, pot the stems in worm castings and help them settle in with some diluted Seasol. Place them in a warm but shaded spot (I left mine behind some big pots in the courtyard) and water daily.