Saturday, February 27, 2010

Betel Leaf-Wrapped Sausages with Rice Noodles

I first tasted these at a Vietnamese restaurant on Nicollet Avenue that is now out of business. I was bummed when they went out of business because I thought they were the only place that made these. I had no idea what they were called and often looked for a description in menus from other Vietnamese restaurants, but couldn't seem to find it. I was fortunate enough to run into some food blogs recently and finally found out the recipe. I used the recipe from Andrea Nguyen since I have tried other recipes from her and they have been good. I've been meaning to make these earlier when I first started my blog, but never had the time to go all the way to Saint Paul to see if they sold the betel leaves. I finally stopped at Dragon Star in Saint Paul and found the leaves. Even when I was there, there were no labels and I just went by what I remember them to look like. I was even afraid when I went up to the register and it rang up "chapou leaves" instead of betel. I guess I should've asked a Vietnamese person there, but all the ones that passed by didn't seem to speak English. However, I felt reassured once I came home and Googled again for betel leaves and compared it to the ones I just bought. They looked exactly the same.

The sausages were pretty easy to make, but even after making a pound of the meat, it didn't seem to make enough. I barely had any left over to bring to lunch for the next day. I served these with rice stick noodles and the Vietnamese dipping sauce to make these as a Vietnamese bun dish. That's how the place where I initially ate these served them and I like it that way.

Start out by cooking the rice stick noodles, prepping the fresh vegetables followed by making the dipping sauce. That way the sausages will be freshly cooked and everything else is already made.

Serves 4


-1 package of rice stick noodles, cook according to package
-Vegetables of your choice such as lettuce, pickled carrots and daikon, and cucumbers
-Fresh herbs such as basil and mint
-Vietnamese dipping sauce, recipe follows
-Betel beef sausages, recipe follows

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (nuoc cham)

Yields 1-1/2 cups

1 clove garlic
1 to 2 Thai chilies cored, seeded, and minced
1/2 tsp. ground chili paste
2/3 cup hot water
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp fresh lime juice

In a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and fresh chilies to a paste. (Or mince them together with a knife.) In a small bowl, combine the garlic and chili mixture with the chili paste, hot water and sugar. Stir well. Add the fish sauce and lime juice and combine. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before using. Store leftover covered with Saran wrap in fridge.

Betel Leaf-Wrapped Sausages

Recipe courtesy of Andrea Nguyen of

Makes about 30 sausages

30-40 fresh wild betel leaves (some leaves came pretty small and I just used two to wrap one sausage)

1 lb ground beef, chuck preferred
2 tablespoons finely minced lemongrass (about 1 medium-small stalk)
2 teaspoons Madras curry powder, Sun brand preferred
1/4 cup minced scallion, green and white part
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. In a bowl, combine the beef with seasonings. Use your fingers to mix well. Set aside to marinate while you prepare the leaves.
2. Use scissors or your fingers to detach the leaves from their center stems. Make sure to keep the leaf stem attached to the leaf. You’ll need it later for creating the rolls.
3. To make the rolls, put a leaf on your work surface, matted side up. Take a bit of meat (about 2 tablespoons) and use your hand to shape it into a small sausage of sorts. Place the meat on the leaf, about 1/3 of the way below the pointy tip. The length of the sausage doesn’t need to span the full width of the leaf because the leaf shrivels during cooking.
4. Then roll up the meat in the leaf, poke a hole in the leaf with a toothpick, and use the little stem to seal it up. The roll will keep its shape. Place the finished roll on a foil-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining leaves until all the beef is used. Rub a bit of oil on each roll when all of them are done.

5. To cook, position an oven rack on the top third of the oven and preheat to broil
(425 degrees). Slip the baking sheet into the oven and broil for 6 to 8 minutes, turning them frequently to cook evenly and prevent too much charring of the leaf. The cooked rolls will feel firm, look a bit shriveled, and be slightly charred at the edges.
5. Transfer to a plate. Leftovers reheat well in a toaster oven preheated to 350F.

Wrapped sausages before cooking:

Serve by assembling noodles into a large bowl and top it with fresh veggies and herbs, 6-10 sausages and a side of the dipping sauce. When ready to eat, pour the sauce over dish, mix and enjoy.

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