Recipe: Burmese Tea Leaf Salad (Lahpet Thoke)

This classic of Burmese cuisine is a delectable mélange of flavors and textures – and one of the more popular dishes served to Vantage travelers during our Burma & the Irrawaddy River river cruise. Lahpet Thoke (pronounced la-pay-toe) is often served at the end of a meal as a palate cleanser. The dish is an ancient symbolic peace offering, as warring kingdoms would often seal their treaties over a meal that concluded with this flavorful favorite.

Thanks go to Chef Jorge Penneke, Culinary Director for Vantage’s all-suite deluxe river ships in Burma, Cambodia and Vietnam, and India. His Tea Leaf Salad recipe inspired this Americanized version. (Fermented tea leaves are hard to come by outside Asia. If your local specialty market does not carry this Burmese cuisine staple, here’s how to ferment your own dry tea using Darjeeling green tea.)

Serves 6

Ingredients:

For fermented tea leaves:

  • 1 cup dry Darjeeling green tea leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 cup shredded napa cabbage 1⁄2 cup finely chopped cilantro 1⁄2 cup scallions, finely sliced 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger pinch of salt 1⁄4 cup fresh lime juice 2 minced green chilies (optional)

For salad plate:

  • 3 tablespoons Vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon sliced garlic
  • 1 cup cooked yellow split peas
  • 3 tablespoons roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1⁄2 cup thinly sliced tomato
  • 2 cups cocktail shrimp, cooked
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon lemon juice

For dressing:

  • Reserved oil (from fried garlic, above)
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce (nam pla)
  • Fresh lime slices

Preparation:

Ferment the tea leaves (at least 2 hours ahead)

Place leaves in a bowl and pour 4 cups of boiling water over them. Let sit for 10 minutes, then drain, squeezing out excess moisture. Mash with a fork or potato masher, adding some warm water to soften leaves as necessary. Rinse once more, then add 3 cups of cold water to bowl, allowing leaves to sit at least one hour (and as long as overnight.) This removes any bitterness.

Drain again and squeeze out excess water, then chop leaves and mix with the napa cabbage, cilantro, scallions, garlic paste, ginger, salt, lime juice, and (optional) minced green chilies. Cover with plastic wrap and allow leaves to ferment for two days in a dark, cool place. After two days, store in refrigerator.

Assemble the salad and dressing

Add vegetable oil to skillet over medium heat. When hot, add sliced garlic and fry till golden, then remove with slotted spoon to a paper- towel lined plate. Reserve the oil.

Serve the salad unmixed, placing fermented tea leaves in the center of a platter and arranging the remaining ingredients (split peas, peanuts, fried garlic, toasted sesame seeds, tomato slices, and shrimp) around it. In a small bowl, whisk the reserved oil, lemon juice, fish sauce, and salt until emulsified and drizzle over the tea leaves before serving.

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