Pork Stuffed Betel Leaves at Wei’s Noodle House in Ottawa
The little appetizer pictured above was served to me at Wei’s Noodle House, which is an Asian Fusion Restaurant down in Ottawa’s Chinatown. This particular dish was Vietnamese in style and spirit and was a bit of a novelty for me as I have never before, nor since, had Betel Leaves. Here, they were wrapped to form rolls around ground Pork, and, though the result wasn’t especially exciting, I did enjoy it.
Betel Leaves are obtained from a Vine native to South-East Asia. The Betel Plant is in the same family as Pepper, and also Kava, whose leaves resemble Betel Leaves. There is also something called ‘Betel Nut’, which I assumed came from the same plant, but, in fact, the ‘nut’, also called Areca Nut, is from a different plant. As it happens though, Areca and Betel Leaf are often combined together in a preparation that is used like Chewing Tobacco in many Asian countries.
Anyway, here, the Betel Leaves were wrapped around lightly seasoned ground Pork and the resulting rolls were then deep-fried. I have to say that, after experiencing Betel Leaves, I wasn’t left with any particular impression. Wikipedia describes the leaves as having a sort of peppery taste, but that didn’t really come across to me any more than if there were a little ground White Pepper in the Pork. There was a faint aroma, and a similar taste, to the rolls that I couldn’t quite identify, nor adequately describe, but whether this was the Betel Leaves or not, I can’t say.
The Pork filling was pleasant, but not especially remarkable and, overall, these Pork Stuffed Betel Leaves were a bit bland. There was a Nuoc Cham style dipping sauce on the side, which I think may have been a vegetarian version as it didn’t have the usually identifiable presence of Fish Sauce. It was quite sweet, and slightly tangy, and was generally very nice, except that I didn’t think it complemented these stuffed rolls very well. A little hot sauce would have been better, I think. In any event, I wasn’t blown away by this dish, but it was interesting, and I am glad to have tried it.