Memories Of Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Rolls

Jackie Gordon Singing Chef - Memories Of Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Rolls

This time of year in Melbourne, Australia, it’s the middle of summer. One of the very distinct smells of an Aussie summer is mangoes. If you’re in Little Saigon, in the inner Melbourne suburb of Richmond, in January, the markets are filled with stacks of boxed mangoes and mountains of loose mangoes. The tantalizing scent of the mangoes seems to whisper to passers-by, like a prostitute in a doorway, “Pssst… pssst… pssst… you… yeah, you. Do you want some of this? You know you want this…

Here, in New York, I have never smelled mangoes like them. Even in the midst of our Big Apple summer, when my fruit and veggie store has mangoes,  I grab them, SNIFF furiously and NOTHING. I once visited a mango farm in Australia, in Queensland which was like being in mango heaven. Apparently, 92% of the mangoes grown in Australia are consumed there, which is great for them, but sad for me.

Another thing I miss from Little Saigon is Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Rolls.

I’ve never seen them on a New York Vietnamese menu. They are finger-sized, leaf wrapped, parcels of lemongrass scented meat, studded with crunchy water chestnuts and dusted with peanuts. I love the contrast of the licorice flavor of the leaves with the sweetened fish sauce and lemon-ish beef. At restaurants, they come skewered together on a stick. They are best hot out of the oven, but work at room temperature as well, so they’re perfect for a potluck. I actually made them for our Chinese New Year potluck event a few years ago. Chinese New Year is around the corner, so whip them up for that or make them anytime. I used perilla leaves from my garden for the ones in this photo. If you grow them, you know they grow like weeds so this is a good way to use them up.

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Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Rolls

Appetizers & Snacks, Parties & Potlucks
These lemongrass spiced beef rolls were a favorite hors d’oeuvre we served when I was freelance catering cook in Melbourne, Australia. The kitchen was near Little Saigon, so we would buy these in rather than make them.
Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Rolls


  • 1 pound ground beef (use fatty beef)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemongrass, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoon canola oil
  • 24 large betel or Perilla leaves*
  • 8 water chestnuts, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Fish sauce
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup scallions, sliced in rounds
  • 1/2 salted roasted peanuts, chopped fine


  1. In a medium skillet, sauté the garlic, lemongrass and ginger in oil until golden. Remove and cool in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Add ground beef, water chestnuts, sugar, fish sauce and black pepper to the bowl and mix thoroughly.
  3. To make the rolls, place a leaf on a plate so the back of the leaf is facing up. Take about 2 tablespoons of the beef mixture and roll it into a sausage shape that is not quite as wide as the widest part of the leaf. Place the meat on the leaf near the stem end of the leaf and roll the leaf around the sausage. towards the pointy tip.
  4. Place the rolls seam-side down on a sheet pan, until you are ready to cook them.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 °. Bake for 20-30 minutes until beef is cooked through.
Total time:
Yield: About 25 rolls depending on the size of the leaves


* You can buy the perilla and betel leaves in Southeast Asian grocery stores. You can also use fresh shiso leaves which you can often find in a Japanese food store.