Myanmar Lephet - Green Tea Salad
In Pakistan I was nonplussed when asked if I like to drink cigarette. In Myanmar, don't be surprised if you are asked if you like to eat tea. It is no linguistic mistake. They are talking about the delicious and appetizing green tea salad, which is the unique dish, not enjoyed elsewhere in Asia and unknown in other part of the world where tea is simply drunk.
In Myanmar Lephet Thoke (fermented tea-leaf salad) is more than just a dish, it is an integral part of everyday social culture, and just like the cuppa that one drinks in most other culture.
What is Lephet?
Laphet is served to welcome guests to the house, as a peace offering after argument, as a snack in front of TV, as an appetizer or last course, a palate cleanser after a meal, and as a stimulant to ward off sleep during all-night Myanmar opera performances.
And when there is nothing else too much on, there is always some marinated green tea in the cupboard, which can be mixed with rice and eaten as is.
My first encounter with green tea salad was at a local friend's home where we had it with an assortment of fried nibbles such as peanuts, chickpeas, broad beans and mung dal. The taste remained me of marinated grape leaves used in Greek cuisine.The recipe that follows is a traditional recipe;
4 tbs Lephet
3 cloves garlic, sliced and then deep-fried till crisp
1 green chili, finely chopped
2 tbs dried shrimp, soaked and blended to powdery fluff
2 tbs, roasted peanuts
1 tbs, roasted sesame seeds
2 tsp fresh limejuice
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tbs peanut oil
Traditionally, in cultured Burmese homes, this dish is served in a decorated lacquer ware container with different compartments for each ingredient and the diners would choose their own ingredients and serve themselves either with their fingers or a small spoon. Finger bowls would be provided. Nowadays the ingredients might be pre-mixed as in a conventional salad.