Thursday, November 12, 2009

Recipe: Betel Leaves (maeng khum)

If you're a fan of the Thai starter 'betel leaves' you have to try growing your own betel leaf plant. What we in Australia call betel leaves are actually the leaves of the Pepper Tree but from the same family.
When you next buy a bunch of betel leaves or pepper leaves  from your Asian grocer save a few stalks and keep them in warm water in a warm place until they root. This can take up to four weeks so be patient. Once you have a few roots it's time to plant! I will keep you posted about how my little transplant fares....

my two betel stalks

a pot with enough depth to support a small betel tree

good quality potting mix. Also add some dynamic lifter or similar

fill your pot up with soil

plant your cutting

water, and find your betel plant a comfy spot in the sun

Betel leaves ( from Arun Thai Restaurant, Sydney)

1 teaspoon shrimp paste
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon finely chopped galangal
1 teaspoon finely chopped shallot
1 tablespoon finely chopped root ginger
1 teaspoon dried shrimps, finely blended
4 tablespoons toasted, shredded coconut,
5 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons palm sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce

12 betel nut leaves or pepper tree leaves
2 tablespoons dried shrimps
2 tablespoons diced root ginger
2 tablespoons diced lime (skin on)
2 tablespoons diced shallot
80g (2 3/4 oz) toasted, shredded coconut
2 chillies sliced into rings

First make the sauce. Wrap the shrimp paste in foil and grill it for 2-3 minutes, until the paste is dry. Heat the oil in a small pan and fry the galangal, shallot, ginger and stir for two minutes until aromatic. Add the dried shrimps, shredded coconut, water shrimp paste, palm sugar and fish sauce and stir over a low heat until the sauce thickens. The consistency should be quite sticky and taste both salty and sweet. Remove the sauce from the heat and cool.
To serve, spoon a little of each ingredient onto betel leaves and top with a dollop of sauce. Wrap leaf into bite-size piece and enjoy!


  1. oo - looks really good. your balcony garden is an inspiration. My balcony is much smaller but I am still trying to incorporate a lot of plants!

  2. Great idea to propagate that way! I do it with my geraniums because i don't have to wait for the stems to root before just stick them in the soil and water!

    BTW...a second curry leaf tree arrived in the mail today...thesis writing is contributing to me losing my mind...i ordered two ...i wasn't thinking straight LOL I named with one 'baby' in honour of Patrick Swayze... Yes I know, i have a problem LOL

    I don't think i've ever eaten Betel leaves...what flavour do they have?

  3. I love how you update you blog everyday! Its refreshing!

  4. Betel leaves growing in my backyard? I'd never even considered it, but OH I would love that:D

  5. Hi Gastronomy Gal,
    keep perservering.... it's so rewarding when you pick your first herb or vegie. Indira

    hi suziwong66,
    I'm not sure if I've ever had a 'real' betel leaf because they are so interchangeable with their pepper leaf tree cousin and look very similar. They are slightly peppery in flavour and tart, and balance beautifully with the sweet, sour, salty, hot filling! Highly recommend them. I have a friend who is so addicted we nearly always catch-up at the Arun Thai and she almost always orders them!Indira

    Hi rachel,
    glad you enjoy daily postings. Have to admit it requires quite a bit of discipline and time management! Indira

    Hi Coby,
    I know - once you get more confident about growing and you have the right climactic conditions you can have your favourite food on your doorstep! Indira

  6. I also love how you answer comments!

  7. 1st of all,i had try this maeng khum.'s delicious! really love it! my frenz say that i'm looks like a goat..(shaun the sheep)

  8. Delicious! Thanks for the fantastic recipe. I'll be posting my attempt on my own blog too - slightly tweaked, of course :)