Use for betel leaf/la trau (Piper betle)?
June 28, 2013 3:42 PM   Subscribe

I took a risk and bought a small package of "la trau" leaves, not knowing what they were, hoping I could use them to make wraps of some kind. Research when I got home showed them to be betel leaf, the medicinal kind. I'm not going to try the traditional route of finding an areca nut and slaked lime to wrap up and chew (gross), so can I do anything else with them?

I was shopping at the local Korean megamarket, and next to the sesame leaves were packages of leaves about the same size, labeled only in Vietnamese "la trau". Since I was looking make various kinds of wraps, they looked like a good experiment, and at less than $2, a small risk to try out.

When I got home and did research, and then tasted a tiny piece, it turns out they're not mislabeled, and they're not a culinary ingredient. They're Piper betle (not Piper sarmentosum or "wild betel leaf", the "la lot" in bo la lot). They taste herbal and medicinal and made my tongue slightly numb.

I'm not even sure if they're safe for me to eat, given my kidney problems. I understand that the common use of wrapping them around a betel/areca nut and slaked lime (and sometimes tobacco and spices) and chewing and spitting for the stimulant effect is by far the most common use of this leaf, but also very carcinogenic - but I don't know if the leaves on their own are possibly carcinogenic or safe to eat.

Am I best off just getting rid of them, or is there anything I can do with them?
posted by WasabiFlux to Food & Drink (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Sorry, my compound parenthetical phrases are often a bit confusing. This is not la lot. This is la trau, a different species. Your first link is the one I linked as bo la lot, meaning to say that it is not that leaf, even though they're both referred to in English with "betel", as is the also-unrelated nut.

Colonial-origin English naming is confusing.
posted by WasabiFlux at 4:52 PM on June 28, 2013

well, if you feel like you suffer from excessive body odour, a common herbal remedy is to make a simple infusion of betel leaf in hot water, for 10-15 minutes or until the water cools down to lukewarm and safe to drink (don't eat the leaf). You can also apply it topically for the same purpose, once you mash it a bit.

i can't advise how this may affect your kidney problems, so i suppose you should check in with your doctor.

We generally don't eat the leaf, true enough, and I don't know how proven this is, but the claim is that it's antiseptic, so it's used more as poultice for small cuts and boils. Another common use is to boil it with cloves and cinnamon, and drink the water with honey, as a cough medication.
posted by cendawanita at 6:27 PM on June 28, 2013

I am still not clear on the kind of leaves you have but here are few links I found.

Indian Paan 1, 2
Betel Leaf Wrapped Beef

I have tried Indian Paan a few times and it has this numbing effect (but does not last long). Addition of lime and some other brown colored substance is to reduce the effect of betel leaf. AFAIK, the use of this 'paan' is preferentially after meal (may be digestive or something).

I would have used it, if I would have had the ingredients to make this paan (because depending on how you make it, it can be pretty good taste) but otherwise I would discard them.
For kidney issues, no idea.
posted by zaxour at 3:14 AM on June 29, 2013

That's a tricky one — I grow la lot myself and, yeah, it's got a nice flavor, good for wraps, as you know, but la trau has, AFAICT, no culinary uses. Since they have singinficant folk-medicinal use with apparently physiologically active chemicals, I can understand your reservations about consuming them if you have health concerns. They probably could be used as a meat wrap with a different, much more assertive flavor than la lot (seeing as how grape leaves are used as a substitute for la lot half the time, this isn't so very inauthentic), and consumed in small quantities they probably present very little health risk, but if you're not comfortable with the notion the best thing to do might be to pass them along to a curious friend.
posted by jackbishop at 8:18 AM on June 29, 2013

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