Thursday, 18 December 2014

Burmese Tea Leaf Salad (Lahpet Thoke)

You'll soon start to notice that I absolutely love, and am always inspired by, Asian food. My particular obsession at the moment is Burmese food. Ever since I travelled through South East Asia last summer, I've been hooked on Lahpet Thoke, or Tea Leaf Salad.

It may sound strange, but Tea Leaf Salad is a warm salad made of fermented tea leaves, crunchy nuts and needs, and other vegetables served over rice. It's a little bit salty, a little bit spicy, and very addictive. There are several recipes more making it, but I'll share what I like to throw together.

Getting hold of the tea leaves is, of course, the hardest part. In Thailand, ten packs of tea leaves and accompanying crunchy nuts and seeds cost less than £2. I promise to experiment with actually fermenting my own tea leaves in future, but for now you can order these lovely things from Mum's House (in the UK) - wow, what a fascinating website! I have no idea what most of the things on there are, but I'd love to find out. They're very cute - they send photos of their delivery receipts, and even of the parcel itself, to show you that your parcel is on its way. I've linked to the page with the actual tea leaves that I ordered.

Ingredients (serves 2)

One pack of fermented tea leaves (recipe coming soon)
Nut mix - if this doesn't come with your tea leaves, add a handful of sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and peanuts roasted (ideally in groundnut oil)
1/4 Cabbage (Chinese cabbage is best)
2 tomatoes or 6-8 cherry tomatoes
A clove of garlic
1/4 onion
Cooking oil (ideally groundnut oil)
Tsp of fish sauce
Half a lime
Optional: Beansprouts, green beans
Serve with rice - Thai sticky rice or Sushi rice is the most authentic, but brown rice is the healthiest!

1. Chop up the garlic and fry it in oil on a frying pan. I say groundnut oil because peanut oil is usually used in Burma and Thailand, however - it is pretty hard to find -
so don't worry too much!

2. Chop up the onion, cabbage and tomatoes and throw them into the frying pan.

3. Add any other vegetables/beansprouts, then add the nut mix and the tea leaves (straight from the packet).

4. Add the fish sauce and stir for a few minutes. There is nothing that needs cooking - it's just to get everything nice and hot.

5. Squeeze the lime over the top and serve over rice!

This marks my initial voyage into Burmese cooking. I've just bought a beautiful book called Burma: River of Flavors: Rivers of Flavor which is full of wonderful photos and stories about the country, as well as all kinds of recipes. A lot of food is hard to make authentically due to a lack of local ingredients, so I'm planning to find ways to recreate them using easy-to-source items without losing too much of the original flavour. Stay tuned! For now, here's one more picture of one I made earlier...

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