Burmese Tea Leaf Salad (Lapet Thoke)

June 22, 2015 , Passmethedimsum

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Gone are the fast food days. McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King are now borderline abominable. People are opting to eat in as much as possible, and salads are the new steaks. Times have changed, people. We have evolved. But you know what hasn’t evolved much? Our imagination when it comes to putting together salads. It’s always the same lettuce/rocket/baby spinach base with different combinations of pretty much the same variables.

It’s hard to find truly authentic cuisines internationally, unless you have someone’s grandma or momma in the kitchen. I find that the authenticity of a cuisine is always watered down in another country to become more universally palatable. This recipe for Lapet Thoke, comes from from my Burmese mum in law herself.

This savory, spicy, crunchy and fresh tasting salad will be such a far cry from the Greek Salad you’re having every other day that you’ll want to send me a hand written thank you note (gift baskets are welcome too).

Now I find this very easy to make, as my husband has relatives send him pickled tea leaves that are specially made for this purpose, straight from Myanmar/Burma. For those of you who don’t have this this privilege of an option, I looked up a DIY recipe for fermenting/pickling your own tea leaves.

Like all salads, there are many varieties of this salad, but here’s how I make mine:

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons fermented tea leaves*
  • 1 tablespoon roasted peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon fried channa daal (I get the Haldiram packs)
  • 1 teaspoon finely sliced and fried garlic. (It’s about 1-2 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce (can be omitted by vegans)
  • 1 tablespoon soaked and fried lima beans ( I buy these ready made too)
  • 1/4 tightly packed cup of chopped cilantro
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of fresh, garlic, smushed to a paste
  • 1 small tomato,  diced.
  • 1/4 cup julienned cabbage, if you want more crunch.

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Method:

Mix everything up, and serve. And that’s that. This recipe yields the quantity pictured above, i.e., good for one person.

If you can’t find fermented Burmese tea leaves at an Asian store or online, here’s how you can make them at home: 

Fermented Tea leaves:

  1. Take 1/2 cup tea leaves. Choose a tea you like. I prefer Sencha green tea for this purpose. Pick out and discard any twigs or hard bits in the tea. OR, do yourself a favor and pay a little extra for some good quality tea that comes without the twigs (enter Fortnum & Mason).
  2. Add the tea in 250 grams of vinegar and 250 mls of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 30 mins.
  3. Drain the liquid. Rinse the tea leaves. Then squeeze out any remaining liquid. Repeat a couple of times.
  4. Soak in cold water for an hour. Drain, rinse, squeeze out any remaining liquid.
  5. Place in food processor and blend with the juice of 1 lemon, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 green chili, 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon fish sauce, 1 tablespoon oil (mustard, peanut or sesame oils are most ideal. A combination of them, even better). Throw in a couple of dried shrimps too if you have them.

I know it’s a little more tedious than your standard weeknight salad, but trust me, this one is worth it and is the perfect accompaniment to an Asian dinner of, say, sticky rice and curry!

Do give it a try and leave a comment!