Bo La Lot – Probably My Favorite Vietnamese Food!

By Mark Wiens 30 Comments
Bo la lot
Bo la lot – one of my favorite Vietnamese foods

Soup noodle dishes are some of the most famous things to eat in Vietnam.

And there’s no denying they are delicious.

But there are other dishes, like minced meat wrapped in herbaceous leaves and grilled over charcoal, known as bo la lot, that happens to be one of my favorite delicacies from Vietnam.

In this post I’m going to share with you one of the best (and most delicious) bo la lot eating experiences I had in Saigon.

This is a dish you don’t want to miss eating when you’re in Vietnam!

bo la lot in Vietnam
Bo la lot on the grill

What is bo la lot?

Fully known as thit bo nuong la lot (thịt bò nướng lá lốt), this Vietnamese dish includes minced beef mixed with garlic and shallots and some simple spices, wrapped into wild betel leaves (also known as piper lolot leaves), rolled up like cigars, and grilled over hot charcoal.

After the bo la lot rolls are finished grilling, they are served accompanied by Vietnamese rice paper, bun vermicelli rice noodles, and a host of herbs and raw vegetables on the side.

Finally, some extra dipping sauces, and freshly crushed chili, is what elevates the flavor of bo la lot to even higher levels of delicious.

The mix of of flavorful meat grilled in an herbaceous leaf, paired with raw vegetables, and being able to assemble each roll yourself, are the reasons why bo la lot is such an amazing Vietnamese dish.

Cô Liên Bò Lá Lốt
The green inside of Cô Liên Bò Lá Lốt restaurant

Where to eat bo la lot in Saigon?

When I was in Saigon I ate bo la lot at a number of different places from street food to sit-down restaurants.

One of the most famous areas in Saigon to eat bo la lot in is along Ton Duc Thang road.

The problem is:

These street food stalls that serve bo la lot are typically only open at night, and I wanted to eat it for lunch.

So I was searching online, and browsing Foursquare when I came across Cô Liên Bò Lá Lốt, and to my delight, they not only opened for lunch, but the restaurant was located just down the road from my hotel, a place I had walked past numerous times and hadn’t spotted.

It didn’t take my wife and I long before we headed straight there.

Vietnamese street food
Cabinet of Vietnamese sausage

I immediately loved how they had all the bo la lot, and other meats neatly displayed in a cabinet facing the street.

Most of the things were pre-grilled (probably in the earlier morning) to about 80% I’m guessing, then as soon they would get an order, either take-out or dining in, they would throw the skewers of delicious meat on the grill to finish them off so they were fresh, but didn’t take more than a few minutes to cook.

We were greeted with a friendly smile by the owner of the restaurant as we entered.

Co Lien Bo La Lot
The menu at Cô Liên Bò Lá Lốt

The menu at Cô Liên Bò Lá Lốt was simple, yet included everything you could want to eat at a bo la lot restaurant.

Ying and I decided to get one order of bo la lot, one order of bo mo chai, and then some extra cha gio, deep fried Vietnamese spring rolls, on the side.

While on the street in Saigon bo la lot might only cost 25,000 VND, the prices here were 55,000 VND, but they were much bigger size, and in my experience better quality.

bo la lot in Vietnam
Can’t wait to start eating!

Our bo la lot were tossed on the grill, right along the sidewalk at the entrance of the restaurant, and I could immediately smell the herb aroma of roasting leaves and sweet beef.

I couldn’t wait to eat!

bo la lot
At the front is bo la lot, and at the back of the plate is bo mo chai

It’s a little hard two see, but on the plate above, there are two different things.

At the front of the plate are the bo la lot, and then at the back of the plate are bo mo chai (we’ll talk more about this later), little Vietnamese sausages without the leaf wrapping.

The entire plate was topped with crushed peanuts, then drizzled in fragrant scallion oil and diced, perhaps lightly sautéed, scallions.

Vietnamese rice noodles
Served with Vietnamese rice paper and bun rice vermicelli

The side dishes

Yet another reason why bo la lot is so delicious, just like nearly all Vietnamese dishes, is because of the generous amounts of side dishes – herbs, pickles, chilies, sauces – that always accompany any order of the dish.

Two of the most important sides, are the bun rice vermicelli (same noodles that are used in many other dishes), and thin sheets of Vietnamese rice paper for wrapping.

Vietnamese herbs
Lettuce and herbs

Additionally, green leafy vegetables and herbs, are a necessary component of eating bo la lot.

You may be served a variety of what’s available, but on our platter at Cô Liên Bò Lá Lốt we got a handful of Vietnamese coriander, sweet basil, lettuce, chives, and I think there may have been a few other leaves on the bottom too.

Vietnamese pickles
Pickles

Another delicious addition was a bowl of Vietnamese pickles that includes daikon, carrot, and slices of green un-ripe banana.

The pickles were very light, just slightly sour and salty, but still very fresh and crisp tasting, almost more like marinated vegetables, just slightly starting to pickle.

bo la lot rolls
Assembling the rolls!

The main strategy for eating is bo la lot, just like eating miang kham or miang pla pao in Thailand, is to wrap everything up, and devour.

For bo la lot I normally like to begin with a sheet of rice paper, then I like layer on a few base leafy vegetables like lettuce, then some more herbs and noodles, then the bo la lot, and then the garnishing goodies like chilies and sauce.

bo la lot
Everything wrapped up!

How did it taste?

What I really love about eating bo la lot is the mixture of all the flavors, textures, and the combination of meat and vegetables all wrapped up together.

Starting from the center, the beef was a little bit sweet with a hint of citrus, and flavored with perhaps a hint of spice or curry powder and salt. The wild betel leaf, which has a very unique flavor (something I really love), gave each roll a very green earthy taste.

The extra herbs were crisp and fresh, and the sauce had a nice flavor of ginger, sweetness maybe from tamarind, and some fermented fish sauce.

It was incredibly delicious.

bo mo chai
Bò mỡ chài – on the left side

Bò mỡ chài

Along with the bo la lot, we also ordered mo chai, which was on the menu, and something that’s commonly served and eaten with a meal of bo la lot.

I’m not totally sure how the recipe differs, but mo chai, to me, tastes a lot like bo la lot, minus the outer wild betel leaf wrapping. They are also a little meatier.

They were like little sausage shaped Vietnamese hamburgers, and while they were also good, I preferred the bo la lot for that extra boost of smoky green herb flavor.

Saigon street food
Cha gio – Vietnamese fried spring rolls

Chả giò

Finally, just as another side dish, this time for something crispy, we got an order of cha gio, Vietnamese deep fried spring rolls.

What I really love about Vietnamese spring rolls is that instead of a crepe like wrapper, they are often rolled in thin rice paper then deep fried. The skin is nice and thin with layers, almost like baklava, and when it’s deep fried it’s insanely crispy.

In Saigon I had some cha gio filled with minced pork and mung bean noodles, but these seemed to be filled with minced pork and taro, which gave them a starchiness.

These weren’t the best I’ve had, but they were still alright.

Vietnamese street food
Grilled pork on the grill in Saigon, Vietnam

A lady, who I think was the owner or Cô Liên Bò Lá Lốt, was extremely kind, and as she saw us eating and loving the food, she came over with some sample plates of other dishes they served.

One of the things we hadn’t ordered, yet she gave us to try, was their nem nướng sausage.

The meat was firm and a little spongy, but very fresh, and it had a wonderful salty mild flavor. Wrapped in the same way as all the other sausages, it was fantastic.

Cô Liên Bò Lá Lốt
The outside of Cô Liên Bò Lá Lốt restaurant in Saigon

If you have a few minutes, make sure you watch the full video of this meal for more delicious views, and the atmosphere of the restaurant.

Press play below:

(If you can’t see the video, watch it here).

Conclusion

If there’s one Vietnamese dish I could choose to eat for the rest of my life, I would probably choose bo la lot (don’t hold me accountable for this though, as a food lover I rotate through favorite foods quite frequently, but that just shows how much I love this one).

Bo la lot is a Vietnamese dish of minced beef, wrapped in wild betel (la lot) leaves, grilled over charcoal, and eaten wrapped in rice paper and dressed with herbs, sauces, and chilies.

Little did I know, apart from finding it on the day before I left, there was an excellent bo la lot restaurant just down the road from where I was staying in Saigon, known as Cô Liên Bò Lá Lốt.

For fantastic bo la lot in Saigon, check out this restaurant.

Cô Liên Bò Lá Lốt

Address: 321 Võ Văn Tần, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (on the corner of Vo Van Tan and Nguyen Thuong Hien)
Open hours: 10 am – 9:30 pm daily
Price: A huge meal for two of us cost 132,000 VND ($6.09), and we got an nice spread of bo la lot and sausages and spring rolls, and the owner even gave us some free plates of some delicious extras as well.

To see my Saigon food map, click here (on the map, scroll down until you see Cô Liên Bò Lá Lốt)

How about you, what’s your favorite Vietnamese food?

30 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Nick Wheatley

    8 months ago

    Thanks as always for great food recommendations. We’re living in Saigon now, and I was just scanning the internet for a great Bo La Lot spot that is more than a food hawker stall. We are near Quan Co Lien so we’ll definitely stop by to check it out today or tomorrow!

  • Ryan Smith

    3 years ago

    This meal is my all time favorite, a friend once introduced me to try it with cooked rice and it was really delicious too.
    Another friend told me about Bo La Lot, some places serve it in a menu called Bò Bảy Món ( 7 Beef Dishes) including Bò Lá Lốt, Bò Mỡ Chài, Bò Nhúng Dấm (Beef in Garlic). I can’t remember the latter 4 dishes, but they sound all amazing to me.

  • Para James

    4 years ago

    I know this meal. It’s my favourite food ( and will be fat if eat a lot of it 😀 ). You will realize that in Vietnam, the small food stalls have a lot of delicious meals which you propably can’t find at a real restaurant.

  • Eric P

    4 years ago

    Hey Mark, I’ve been following your blog for over a year now. Great posts and restaurants recommendation. Since me and my girlfriend are in Saigon right now, we went to this place and try Bo La Lot. It definitely is one of the best Vietnamese food I’ve tried. Thank you! And all the best for your blog and looking forward to more posts!

  • Paul Burke

    4 years ago

    Just loved the bo la lot…..I have a book full of your recommendations of food and places to eat in Vietnam…just hope we don’t get lost.
    Off in July..can’t wait.
    Looking forward to your Lebanon trip….have fun there
    Paul ..from Brisbane Australia

  • Maria

    4 years ago

    Wow! You’re blog is so amazing! Your photos are so good, makes me wanna go to the nearest viet restaurant here in the Philippines, ha ha ha! Been planning my trip to Vietnam and good thing that I’ve found your blog! Thank you for the generous facts and bless you! If it is not too much, may I know what camera are you using?

  • Austin

    5 years ago

    Mark – thanks for the recommendation – we went to this place last week and it was great! (We were staying at Edenstar Hotel which was virtually around the corner, so also had lunch at Pho Le a few doors down, and a great bun thit nuong in an alley nearly opposite Pho Le.) Lots of great local food in this area and very few tourists.

  • Susan

    5 years ago

    Mark, eversince I got your blog, I have not looked elsewhere for such entertaining , interesting, informative and well presented and detailed food videos. I love travelling & sampling the local food, thank you for sharing the name of the restaurants, the name of the roads and map references. I thoroughly enjoy watching your videos.
    Thank you, food is also one of my passions.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hi Susan, really appreciate your support and kind words. Thank you!

  • JB & Renee

    5 years ago

    I love going through your posts Mark. I always learn about new and interesting foods that I’ve never heard of before. I appreciate how adventurous you are with food. My wife and I are the same way. Ours is a travel food blog as well and Migrationology is a source of inspiration and discovery. It’s actually just one of two blogs that I’ve ever subscribed to. Keep up the great work and best of luck to you and your wife in all your future travels. 🙂

  • Alice La Mangosteen

    5 years ago

    Love this post about Bo la lot! Thanks Mark!
    So excited to see I’m not the only one who’s so obsessed with this dish! Currently based in Singapore, I find it hard to find the perfect Bo la lot like in VN… 🙁
    Next time then….

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hi Alice, yes, so glad to hear you love bo la lot too. We might have to wait until we go back to VN to find the best bo la lot again!

  • Meg

    5 years ago

    What a great post — you really made me miss street cart food. So many flavors and combinations!

  • Monica Manibusan

    5 years ago

    All I gotta say is WOW! I’m from Guam and we love…hot pepper with all our meals and you putting up all your post makes me miss home even more! One things for sure is I’m hoping to visit South East Asia when funds permit or when I hit the lotto, lol! Keep the videos coming Mark 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Monica, great to hear from you, so glad you love hot peppers as well. I hope you can visit SE Asia in the future. I’d love to visit Guam too!

  • Steve

    5 years ago

    Mark, i’m so happy i found your blog because I’ll be in vietnam in a month! I like to travel with my stomach leading the way, like you. Do you ever have problems ordering if you don’t know Vietnamese?

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Great to hear that Steve, thank you. Yes, sometimes it’s a challenge, but I usually try to have the information ready with what I want to eat, and also the good thing about Vietnamese is that it’s transliterated into Roman alphabet, so if you know of a dish, you can read (maybe not pronounce, but still read) the sign (as opposed to Japanese for instance). But sometimes I still have no idea what I’m ordering!

  • Jenn Taylor

    5 years ago

    Oh man! The bo la lot looks so delicious! I love betal leaf! And those fried spring rolls look so crispy! Great post Mark! Having serious food envy here! This place is going on my list of ‘must eats in Vietnam’. Cheers!

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Thank you very much Jenn, glad you love it too. Will you be going to Vietnam soon?

  • Phillip

    5 years ago

    Mark, you’re food posts are amazing! I’m planning on traveling to South East Asia at the end of this year after my trip through Central and South America and I cannot wait to try all of the food you have recommended, I’m going to have to compile a list for my upcoming trip!

    Keep up the awesome work man! Loving all of it 😉

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Phillip, thank you very much, really appreciate it, and glad you’ll be coming to SE Asia soon too. Let me know when you pass through Thailand!

  • Sacha | Beautiful Travel Hangover

    5 years ago

    This reminds me of Korean food! They like to wrap up their foods together in lettuce/ leaves as well. Especially with Korean BBQ meat. I love that way of eating, so delicious. I am just about to make dinner so these photos and thinking about Korean food made me so hungry….

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Sacha, yes good comparison, same style of eating. It works so well. I’m a huge fan of Korean bbq too, enjoy your dinner!

  • Randy

    5 years ago

    7 Course Beef is one of the best dining experiences in Vietnamese cuisine. Bo La Lt is one of the course served. There is also a 7 Course Fish, which I haven’t had, but I would think is also great. Then again nothing beats a great Banh Mi with pate and headcheese. Also Bun Bo Hue with shredded banana flowers is also delicious. Now I’m really hungry!!!

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Randy, thank you very much, the 7 course beef or fish both sound wonderful!