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Beef wrapped in betel leaf is just one of those Thai cooking secrets you need to experience. Here beef is spiced with lemongrass, garlic, shrimp paste, ginger, roasted peanuts and some other Thai delights, then wrapped in betel leaf and grilled/broiled.
The charred betel leaf protects the meat in the cooking process and imparts a delightful flavor on this exotic filling. Not to mention the wonderful aromas of gently charring food escaping from your BBQ or broiler/grill. It is a sublime taste and a perfect little package of food for a quick snack or as an appetizer.
If you want to experience for yourself why Thai food has the reputation it does, then go beyond spring rolls and make this dish. You will be blown away by how good it tastes.
Thai Beef wrapped in betel leaf is a popular street food item in Thailand and today we briefly cover street food in Bangkok. Why is it so popular with the locals and tourists alike?
Read on to find out.
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Street Food in Bangkok
Thailand. The very name evokes thoughts of mysticism, peace, smiles, palms gently swaying on the beach, golden temples, graceful dancing, Zen, I could go on.
Thai restaurants, so popular all around the world, are where many people first experience the charms of Thailand. But going to a restaurant is not where Thais go, it is the street food attracting the crowds. And why not? It is brilliantly cheap with a huge array of stalls and choices. And it is good, very good.
In Bangkok, a huge city, the streets are full of street stalls. Around the markets, the street food stalls open early and close late and the stalls are a semi-permanent fixture. In other locations around the city, they typically open about 4 pm onwards and stay open until late into the night. Sometimes the street stalls are all clumped together in popular locations and others are located on small side streets. You are never far from a street stall in Bangkok.
Around the streets, a stall is a mobile kitchen on wheels. They are hand-pushed, so it is hard work in the tropical heat. Ingredients are sourced each morning at one of the many markets around town. Meals are prepared on site and freshly cooked. There are literally hundreds of meals to choose from and then you sit down on little plastic chairs and communal tables rubbing shoulders with office workers and the locals.
Street food is one of the sublime pleasures of visiting Bangkok – the slightly hectic pace of life and the exotic aroma of cooking food, no matter where you are. And it is incredibly cheap. You will find it hard to spend more than $5 USD.
During Thai curry week, next week, we will explore street food in Chiang Mai, where the food is slightly different to Bangkok and in a more peaceful and Zen setting. And the cost is even cheaper. One night we paid $1.
Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaf
Street food is just one of the many reasons why visiting Thailand is on so many people’s bucket list. Most people are familiar with spring rolls but if you are looking for a more unique Thai (and Vietnamese) delicacy sure to impress family and friends, then try beef wrapped in betel leaf. You can read more about betel leaf here.
Cooking good Thai food is a real pleasure and is a skill that will remain with you forever. Sure, there are some unusual ingredients, but if you source a good, Asian grocer in your city, you will have all these exotic ingredients at hand. This is where you should find refrigerated, betel leaves and bamboo skewers. The aromas from the grilled (and charred) betel leaf is a highlight of this recipe.
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- Dipping Sauce
- 10 bamboo skewers
- 2 ozs dried shrimp #
- 1 1/2 ozs shallots #
- 1 oz galangal cut into slivers and roasted until fragrant #
- 1 tsp ginger sliced #
- 1/3 cup coconut, shredded or dessicated coconut #
- 1/2 tbsp shrimp paste also called belacan #
- 1 1/2 ozs palm sugar broken #
- 1 lb beef, ground (minced)
- 3 tbsp lemongrass chopped #
- 2 tsp garlic minced #
- 1 tbsp ginger minced #
- 3 tbsp shallots finely chopped #
- 1/2 tbsp coriander, ground #
- 2 tsp shrimp paste roasted until fragrant #
- 2 tbsp peanuts roasted, crushed
- 1 tsp salt, ground sea
- 1 tbsp fish sauce #
- 2 tsp raw sugar or sugar
- Betel Leaf
- 1 pack betel leaf In the refrigerated section of Asian Grocers
- Soak 10 bamboo skewers for about 30 minutes.
- If you wish you can make a simpler dipping sauce by combining fish sauce, minced red chili and crushed garlic. This is a typical Vietnamese dipping sauce. If you want to try the Thai-style sauce, follow on below, using the ingredients listed above.
- Soak the dried shrimp in warm water for about 30 minutes. Discard the water. In a mortar and pestle pound the shallots and galangal until well combined. Add the ginger, coconut, shrimp paste and dried shrimp. Continue to pound until you have a smooth paste.
- Over a low to medium heat, place the pounded paste in a saucepan and 3/4 cup of water. When boiling add the palm sugar and stir well. Continue to simmer until about half a cup remains. Season to taste. Remove from heat and place in a bowl.
- Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well to incorporate.
- On a cutting board, place your leaves shiny side down. Place the stuffing on the leaves in a sausage shape. I tend to put all of the filling out on the leaves before I start rolling so you can divide the mixture up evenly. Do not over-stuff the leaves, use more if necessary. Roll up the leaves tightly, as shown.
- Using 2 bamboo skewers, thread 4 rolls onto them.
- Over a medium heat, grill/broil on a BBQ or inside in your broiler/grill. Cook for about 10 minutes having turned the rolls half way through.
# These ingredients are cataloged, many with pictures, to help you identify them in our free, Asian Cooking Essentials Guide. Good for both Vietnamese and Thai recipes. Become a subscriber as we add to the guide for other great, Asian countries we visit.
This looks like such a exotic-special dish. I’m absolutely awe in the combination of ingredients – beef, shrimp, coconut, galangal – sounds absolutely delicious n looks pretty too.
It is an impressive list of ingredients with such a great, Thai taste. And the cooking aromas are out of this world. Thanks for your comment.
This looks amazing. I love the combination of flavors with the lemongrass and shrimp paste. 🙂
It is such a different taste to what we are used to. Such a great cuisine. Thanks for your comment.
Bridget - The Recipe Wench
These look really good. I haven’t eaten much Thai food in my life at all, but I know so many people who absolutely love it. I’m going to have to dive right in. We’re living in Naples, Italy,right now but I believe I’ve seen some Thai restaurants downtown. I’d love to give this recipe a shot!
Bridget, It is a good one to start with! Very tasty. Probably the hardest ingredient to find in Italy will be the Betel Leaf. You might as in one of the Thai restaurants who their supplier is.
Sarah and Laura @ Wandercooks
Hi guys, we haven’t cooked with Betel leaf yet either. Will have to check our stores when we get back. We’re also on the hunt for Japanese Shiso leaf – the bite that it has is incredible. Did you find the Betel leaf to have a lot of flavour in itself or does it just act more as a decorative piece holding the meat together? The flavours sound absolutely wonderful, thanks for the recipe.
Sarah and Laura, I think the betel leaf is adding flavor as well. It is a very tasty recipe. One of my favorites!
I have to try this! These sound so intriguing! I’d love to visit Thailand and try them there one day.
Elizabeth Yes, eating them there is always more exotic, but making them at home was a lot of fun. And this recipe is pretty authentic- it tasted just like the ones in Thailand! Thailand is a lot of fun. Hope you make it there someday.
Sam | Ahead of Thyme
Yumm!! I have never tried this but I think I need to!! Thanks for sharing!
Really good if you are looking for something a little different.
Sherri @ Watch Learn Eat
I’ve never had this before but it looks awesome! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the culture in Thailand. Great post and great recipe! 🙂
I must admit enjoy reading about history and culture, particularly when it comes to food. Thanks for your comment.
Marissa @ OMGfood
I would love to visit Thailand; especially to eat some street food. Being surround by tons of food stalls would be amazing! This recipe also sounds delicious and has me very curious. They almost remind me of dolmades. I’ll have to make a stop at the Asian market next time I make a food run to find the betel leaves. Thanks for sharing!
Marissa, dolmades is somewhat similar. Differently spiced of course. The betel leaf imparts a fabulous flavor and is slightly crunchy from the charring. Thanks for your comment.
AiPing | Curious Nut
I’ve never had betel… at least I don’t think I have. But I can totally imagine the flavors going on in there. Now to find the leaves in the Thai market.
Yes that is the key. We are lucky where we live there are many Asian grocers and we can actually buy them fresh. Thanks for your comment.