Routhier's book is out of print now, but I managed to find a copy years ago of "The Best of Nicole Routhier," which included many of the same recipes. One of the recipes was for bo nuong la nho (Vietnamese grilled beef-stuffed grape leaves). Actually, the book misspelled grape as gno instead of nho, one of many Vietnamese spelling errors. I wonder if the use of grape leaves was Routhier's invention, probably based upon dolmades, as I can't think of any other Vietnamese recipes with grape leaves. Or maybe not, since my mom often says Vietnamese people don't waste anything, and I know my youngest uncle sautes the young grape leaf tendrils. At the time the book was published, many of the ingredients, that seem commonplace now, weren't readily available. Grape leaves seemed a natural substitution for wild betel leaves in the recipe for Bo Nuong La Lot (Vietnamese Grilled Beef with Wild Betel Leaves).
I remembered liking the recipe when I made it long ago. That was before I actually tasted grilled betel leaves though. In revisiting the recipe, while the grilled grape leaves were good, they really couldn't compare to the wonderfully fragrant perfume that gets emitted when la lot is cooked. If you've never tasted grilled wild betel leaves, it's impossible to describe. If I were to compare the disappointment of grape leaves after having eaten la lot, it would be as if someone suggested substituting lettuce for basil. Yeah, that kind of disappointment.
But if you can't obtain wild betel leaves (piper sarmentosum), not to be confused to non-wild betel leaves (piper betle), which is chewed with betel nuts and lime, then you don't know what you're missing. In which case, grilled grape leaves stuffed with beef is still pretty good.
Bo Nuong La Nho (Vietnamese Grilled Beef with Grape Leaves)
Adapted from my recipe for Bo Nuong La Lot (Vietnamese Grilled Beef with Wild Betel Leaves)
For about two dozen rolls, you'll need:
Two dozen fresh grape leaves, stems removed
1/2 lb ground beef, or a mix of half beef and half pork
1/2 tsp salt
1 tblsp soy sauce, or 2 tsp soy sauce and 2 tsp fish sauce
1 1/2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
Optional: Instead of 5-spice powder, you can substitute with curry powder. Instead of ground beef, you can use thinly sliced beef and marinate as usual.
Pluck and wash grape leaves. Remove stems. Set aside.
I prefer making my own ground beef for this because it's less fatty, but packaged will work as well. Adding a little bit of pork provides juiciness as I find beef sometimes dry. After grinding your own meat in a food processor, add 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tblsp soy sauce, and 1 1/2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder. Mix thoroughly. Pop a little bit of the meat into the microwave for about 30 seconds or so to cook. Taste. Adjust seasonings if necessary.
Place a small spoonful of meat on each leaf and roll.
Folding in sides.
Keep the rolls folded side down so they don't unravel.
Grill or pan-fry. Serve with mam nem (Vietnamese fermented anchovy sauce) for dipping. These herb wraps may be simply eaten with rice, or wrapped in rice paper.
My other leaf-wrapped recipes:
Bo Nuong La Lot (Vietnamese Grilled Beef with Wild Betel Leaves)
Bo Nuong La Tia To Dai Han (Vietnamese Grilled Beef with Korean Perilla Leaves)
Canh Bap Cai Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Cabbage Soup)
Dolmades (Greek Grape Leaves Stuffed with Rice, Tomatoes, and Onions)
Mieng Kham (Thai Leaf-Wrapped Snack)
1 year ago today, I didn't go anywhere, but my camera traveled to Hong Kong.