Burmese Tea Leaf Salad (Lahpet Thoke)
During a recent trip to San Francisco, we finally dined at the much raved about Burma Superstar. One dish we knew to try was the Tea Leaf Salad. According to their website they actually go to Burma to get the tea leaves (Lahpet) for their salad.
I got home and craved this salad. I figured it would be easy enough to find the fermented tea leaves - they are common in Burmese cuisine and Lahpet is traditionally eaten during ceremonies and celebrations. Well, I thought wrong. After researching and reading articles online I discovered that Lahpet is not easily found in the US, if at all. There are trade embargoes that prevent imports from Burma. Great.
Further I saw some older news articles about the tea leaves being tainted with Auramine O, a chemical dye not fit for human consumption. SCARY! But I decided to chance it when I found an online retailer in the UK that would ship the Burmese fermented tea leaves to the US! I spent $40 on two small packages, most of which was for the shipping charges. Ugh. What a waste. These were disgusting. Musty, yellowish almost rotten flavored tea leaves. Yes, I tried them, and tossed both bags.
Feeling disappointed, I decided to challenge myself and try to make "fermented" tea leaves. I figured, how hard could it be? After a few trials and errors, I came up with something good! I do worry that I may have forgotten what Burma Superstar's version of this salad tasted like. But I feel happy about what I've created.
Let me know what you think of this one... I'll likely refine it after another trip to SF!