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Burmese tea leaf salad (Lahpet Thoke)

No visit to a Burmese restaurant is complete without digging into Burmese tea leaf salad. The large platter arrives with the tea leaves in the centre, and it is mixed at the tables with about 6-10 other ingredients and served. I love this salad!

I was travelling in Northern Thailand, north of Chiang Mai, just a few miles from the Burmese border with Naomi Daguid, and we were taken to a small shop that makes these fermented tea leaves. The process is manual and long. The tea leaves grown on a small plantation outside the shop are picked, two leaves and a bud, just like for tea, and collected. The leaves are first steamed to wilt them and to dampen the heavy bitter tannins in the leaf. The leaves are rolled into small balls, packed into little bamboo containers, placed in a drum and sealed for 4-6 months, where they ferment. The fermented leaves are then sold as is, or mixed with a touch of vinegar or sugar for a tangy or sweeter version of the leaves.

This salad brings forward the culture of Burma. It has a very long history in Myanmar. In ancient times, fermented tea leaves were used as a peace symbol or peace offering between warring kingdoms. Nowadays, the laphet tray is a main expression of hospitality offered to houseguests. This ceremonial style of eating is called the laphet. The tray comes loaded with all the ingredients, ranging from 6-20, separated. The many ingredients indicated generosity and told the guests they were welcome to share in the bounty. The separation of the ingredients is also important. The host allows the guests to choose only the ingredients and flavours they like, a sign of flexibility and openness to meet in the middle. This is a tray and salad of great importance in the culture.

The salad is beautiful in its ingredients. The sour pickled tea leaves, of course, are the base, the tannins bold and lovely. It is accompanied by runch from fried lentils or broad beans, fried garlic, vegetables, noodles, seeds and nuts, and even fruit. It is a splash of flavour and colour, inviting and delicious.

Burma Superstar is a fabulous restaurant that I have enjoyed many meals at, and this recipe is no exception. The recipes are authentic, vibrant, and delicious— it is literally like bringing the restaurant home. This is a wonderful cookbook for Burmese cuisine.

For more recipes from this wonderful cookbook, click here.


6 cups romaine lettuce, thinly sliced

1/2 cup fried garlic chips

1/4 cup fried yellow dal, commercially fried chana dal is ok

1/4 cup roasted peanuts

1/2 cup sunflower seeds, lightly toasted

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted

10-12 cherry tomatoes

1-2 green chillies, jalapeño or other minced

1 tablespoon powder (optional for vegetarians)

2 teaspoons fish sauce (optional for vegetarians)

Lime wedges

For the dressing:

1/2 cup packed fermented tea leaves, finely chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes

1 teaspoon lime juice

Salt, to taste

Start by making the dressing. Mix all the ingredients together and taste for salt. Set aside for 2 hours to marinate.

Add the dressing to the centre of a large bowl. Add all the individual components around the lea leaves. Bring to the table.

Toss the salad at the table and serve immediately.

Note: to make garlic chips, heat 3-4 tablespoons of oil and add slivered garlic. Fry till browned and remove draining on paper towels.

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Seeing this makes me so glad I still have a stash of those tea leaves in my fridge!! 😁


Make this wonderful salad soon and enjoy them. Qw love this salad at home.

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