On my last trip to Burma with WT, I couldn’t get enough of a dish called Lahpet Thoke, a spicy, bitter, and savory salad made with pickled tea leaves. I discovered it while exploring a market just like the one pictured above, where a vendor surrounds herself with hot chili, lime, basil, and a few of the many other herbs and spices that make Burmese cuisine so delectable.
If you want to try making this unique and traditional Burmese dish, here’s a recipe adapted from that of Moe Moe Hlaing of the Daw Yeik Kyi laphet thoke stand on Sule Pagoda Road in Yangon. Thanks to our friends at Afar magazine for sharing!
1 handful of pickled tea leaves (more if desired)*
1 tsp fish sauce
1 1⁄2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 1⁄2 tbsp fresh yellow beans (broad or butter beans)
1 1⁄2 tbsp dried yellow peas
1 1⁄2 tbsp roasted peanuts
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp tamarind juice
1 tbsp peanut oil
1⁄4 cup shredded cabbage
1 sliced tomato
Whole, raw, hot green chiles, also called Thai bird’s-eye chiles
Raw garlic cloves (small Asian variety), skin on
1. Boil the tea leaves until they are soft, then rinse with cold water to remove some of the bitterness.
2. With a mortar and pestle, pulverize the leaves and fish sauce.
3. Transfer to a bowl and knead the mixture by hand until blended. (Locals say if you mix the salad with a spoon, the flavors will not blend as well.)
4. Add in all of the remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust ingredients for the balance of bitter/ sour/salty/spicy that you prefer.
5. For a zingy option, add shredded cabbage and sliced tomato and serve the salad with raw chile and garlic cloves on the side. Serves 1 as an entree.
*Available online at mumhouse.com or at your local Asian market.
–photo by Brian McGillloway, WT staff, Burma: Wonders of the Golden Land