I am trying something different this spring and I want to share my excitement about a new favourite dish of mine. The concept is simple – fermented tea. The taste however, is everything but. The name of this wonderful dish is Lahpet thohk [green tea+salad] – a Burmese national delicacy made from fermented or pickled tea.

Many of you know that tea is a native to Myanmar, so it is of no wonder why this dish has become so popular. The tea is picked in April and May, and only the best tea leaves are selected for fermentation (leaves are steamed for five minutes before the fermentation process itself). Lahpet thohk is a dish that you will expect to find in many tea shops and Burmese restaurants, but rarely outside of Myanmar.

The dish is served on a special platter called laphet ohk, and surrounded by other traditional condiments such as peanuts, peas, garlic shrimp and toasted sesame. The taste is very unusual, but is something one simply can’t resist. It is mostly described as bittersweet and praised for its medicinal quality of maintaining or improving the digestive system. Even though this dish has been fermented, it remains a stimulant and aids those who need a jump start to their morning.

Lahpet is a symbol of peace, consumed after settling a dispute in the ancient times. Today, it is offered to family, friends and guests. Traditionally, this dish is served at the end of the meal, much like tea or coffee in the end of a Western meal.

For this dish, you will need to purchase lightly fermented tea leaves (Sencha or Pi Lo Chun) and start by soaking them in water overnight in order to remove any bitterness.

Without further ado, here is a wonderful recipe I found on blogs.kcrw.com, featuring a recipe by Naomi Duguid, from her book Burma: Rivers of Flavour

You will need:

“About 3/4 cup fermented tea leaves, rinsed and coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons Toasted Sesame Seeds, lightly ground

2 to 3 tablespoons roasted peanuts, whole or coarsely chopped

2 to 3 tablespoons fried split roasted soybeans

1/2 cup thin tomato wedges

2 tablespoons dried shrimp, soaked in water for 10 minutes and drained

1 cup shredded green cabbage

Salt

At least 6 hours before you wish to serve the salad, place the tea leaves in lukewarm water and mash with your hands a little. Drain and squeeze out. Repeat, then add cold water and let stand for 1 hour (or as long as overnight). Drain, squeeze thoroughly to remove excess water, and discard any tough bits. Chop finely by hand or in a food processor; set aside. If serving the salad unmixed, omit the tomato and cabbage. Place small piles of all the ingredients on a platter, or put each ingredient in a small bowl and place the bowls on a platter. Serve the dressing, if using, in a separate small bowl. Put out spoons with each ingredient, or invite guests to use their hands. If serving as a mixed salad, combine all the ingredients (except salt) in a bowl. Mix with your hands, separating any clumped tea leaves and the shreds of cabbage to blend everything thoroughly. Add the dressing ingredients and blend thoroughly with your hands. Add salt to taste and adjust other seasonings if you wish.”

For more details and to learn more about the wonderful culture of Myanmar as well as its national dish, visit http://blogs.kcrw.com/goodfood/2012/12/recipe-burmese-tea-leaf-salad/

I hope that all of you will try this, and when you do, let me know how it turns out!