Burmese tea leaf salad is an addictive salad with a combination of textures and savory, salty, mildly sour flavors. The key ingredient is the fermented tea leaf dressing which can be easily made at home with green tea.
My friend Ruchi from The Tiffin Kitchen suggested that I look into Burmese Tea Leaf Salad (Lahpet Thoke) as we were brainstorming for our monthly tea post. Last month, we shared Matcha Soda and Peaches & Cream Milk Oolong Tea and this month, we are sharing how tea can be enjoyed as a meal/snack. Do stop by Ruchi’s blog where she is sharing Gyokuro Tea Leaf Salad as a part of her Asian-rice bowl. After some internet searching & recipe testing, I am happy to present my version of Burmese Tea Leaf Salad (Lahpet Thoke). Burmese Tea Leaf Salad (Lahpet Thoke) is a famous fermented tea leaf salad from the Shan State, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma although both the names are still used interchangeably). Lahpet also spelled laphet, lephet, letpet, or leppet, means fermented or pickled tea leaf and thoke, means salad in Burmese language. This salad was traditionally used as a peace symbol or as a peace offering between kingdoms at war but now a days, it is served as a snack or as an expression of hospitality to guests.
Myanmar is not well-known for their teas but they do grow tea, mostly green tea for domestic consumption. Tea is grown mostly in Tawngpeng district of Shan State in eastern Burma and uses Assamica cultivar. All teas come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis plant and there are two main kinds: the Camellia sinensis sinensis (found throughout China, Vietnam, Korean, Japan) and Camellia sinensis assamica (found in India, Sri Lanka, Kenya).
The highlight of Burmese Tea Leaf Salad (Lahpet Thoke) is the tea leaf dressing which is made with the green tea and aromatics. Traditionally, tea leaves are picked, steamed, and fermented underground for roughly six months (or up to two years) in a bamboo vat. I am not sure if there is an universal way of making Burmese Tea Leaf Salad (Lahpet Thoke) or does it vary based on the region, ethnicity, family recipe because I saw different variants on the internet. If anyone knows more on this, please comment below.
For my Burmese Tea Leaf Salad (Lahpet Thoke), I used Darjeeling green tea and fermented the leaves with aromatics like ginger, garlic, and green chiles for 3-7 days on the counter top but you can store the container in the refrigerator after 3 days. Making the tea leaf salad dressing (lahpet) is the only ‘difficult’ part of this entire recipe which is mostly inactive time for the tea leaf to ferment.
Once the tea leaf salad dressing (lahpet) is ready, it’s time to assemble the salad. It is packed with freshness from greens like shredded cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes and lots of textures and flavors from fried garlic chips, nuts and seeds such as peanuts soybeans, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. You can also add dried shrimp powder, fried anchovy, and drizzle fish sauce if you wish.
I enjoyed Burmese Tea Leaf Salad (Lahpet Thoke) as a meal but you can easily serve it as a side dish. The savory, umami, fresh salad is really addictive and I hope you will give it a try soon. If you like Burmese Tea Leaf Salad (Lahpet Thoke), I would recommend making the tea leaf salad dressing in a large batch and store in the refrigerator.
Hopefully one day, I will get to try the authentic Burmese Tea Leaf Salad (Lahpet Thoke) but in the meantime, I am using the recipe from Jet Set Fork as my reference for Burmese Tea Leaf Salad (Lahpet Thoke).
Burmese Tea Leaf Salad (Lahpet Thoke)
makes enough salad for 2 as a meal (or 4 as a side)
recipe for tea leaf dressing will serve 4-6
For the tea leaf dressing
½ cup dried green tea leaves, loosely packed
6 garlic cloves
2 inch, ginger, peeled
2-3 green chiles, stems removed
Juice of 1 lime
generous pinch of salt
For the salad
1 Romaine heart, chopped (shredded cabbage or mixed of greens can be used)
¼ cup chopped red onion
¼ cup chopped cucumber
6-8 cherry tomatoes, chopped
handful of peanuts (use variety of nuts and fried sesame seeds)
¼ cup fried garlic chips* (see note below)
2 lemon, sliced
For the tea leaf dressing
Add dried green tea leaves in a medium bowl then pour 2-3 cups of hot water over it. Let is soak for 10 minutes or so until it softens. Pick any stems and tough bits and drain the tea, squeezing any excess liquid.
Rinse the tea with cold water and let it soak few hours or overnight to help remove the bitterness from the tea leaves. Drain and squeeze excess water from the leaves. Place the tea leaves in a food processor along with garlic, ginger, and green chiles then chop it finely. Season with generous pinch of salt and lime juice and transfer to a glass jar with a lid. Cover the jar and let it ferment for 3-7 days in a cool, dark space or on your counter top away from direct sunlight. Now it’s ready to be served.
For preparing the salad
Prepare your ingredients for the salad such as toasting nuts and seeds, chopping vegetables, greens etc.
To make garlic chips: Heat a small pan with neutral oil over medium heat, add the sliced garlic (I used about ½ the head). Fry until just golden, about 3-4 minutes. Remove the garlic out of the pan using a slotted utensil and set aside on a plate lined with paper towel to crisp up. Reserve the oil for future use or you can blitz little oil with your tea leaf salad dressing.
Arrange all the ingredients on a plate in a neat pile and add tea leaf salad dressing in the center. Season with salt and squeeze lemon juice as needed.
Have you tried Burmese Tea Leaf Salad (Lahpet Thoke) before? Or, tried making Burmese Tea Leaf Salad (Lahpet Thoke) at home? Do share your experience or if you know anywhere in the DFW where one can get Burmese Tea Leaf Salad (Lahpet Thoke), I’d love to visit.