Recipe: Burmese Tea Salad (Lahpet Thoke)

Photo: Camellia Tse

Read about Burmese Tea Salad (Lahpet Thoke) in Los Angeles here.

The most prized Burmese green tea leaves (lahpet) are grown in the Northern Shan State, where new leaves are harvested during the spring months. Once picked, the young leaves are steamed for about an hour before being hand-mashed. The tenderized leaves are then mixed with salt and transferred to bamboo-lined vats, in which the mixture is compressed using weights before being stored for several months to a year, until finally reduced to a fermented pulp. Luckily, lahpet can be ordered online here.

Burmese Tea Salad (Lahpet Thoke)
Serves two

Prepare the tea leaf mixture the night before, as you'll want to allow time for the flavors to absorb. Thoroughly soak, drain and rinse your lahpet repeatedly to remove any sharp, tannic bitterness. Squeeze to remove all excess moisture and finely chop the leaves. Next, marinate the pulp in a mixture of:

1 cup Burmese fermented tea leaves
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce (optional)
2 tablespoons peanut or soybean oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ thai green chili (optional)
1 teaspoon salt (instead of fish sauce)

Cover and refrigerate overnight. The mixture can be stored for up to one week. Meanwhile, you can also prepare the dry ingredient mixture:

1/8 cup dry broad beans
1/8 cup dry yellow split peas
2 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1/8 cup roasted peanuts
3 tablespoons raw garlic, minced
2½ cups cabbage, finely shredded
½ roma tomato, diced

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Deep-fry broad beans and yellow split peas twice for extra crunch. Combine with roasted peanuts in a large mixing bowl. Toast sesame seeds till golden and set aside. Separately, deep-fry minced garlic till golden and set aside. Add shredded cabbage and marinated tea leaf mixture to mixing bowl of fried beans, split peas and peanuts. Drizzle with dressing:

1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon soybean oil
¾ tablespoon fish sauce
½ tablespoon soy sauce
½ tablespoon sweet soy sauce
¼ teaspoon white vinegar
¼ teaspoon palm sugar

You may want to use a gloved hand to evenly work the tea leaf mixture and dressing into the cabbage and dry ingredients -- trust me. Next, add the diced tomato, 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds and fried garlic and re-work the ingredients altogether until evenly distributed.

Plate lahpet thoke and sprinkle remaining tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds on top of salad.

For extra kick, Burmese often serve lahpet thoke with fresh chilies and raw garlic cloves on the side to nibble to further enhance each bite.

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