About Myanmar Lahpet Thoke Salad
In most of the world, mention the word “tea”, and it’s immediately recognized as a beverage. In Myanmar however, mention tea, and it can be associated with either a drink, or a food.
Along with the ever-present dish of mohinga, Tofu Salad, lahpet thoke (လက်ဖက်သုတ်), or Myanmar lahphet thoke salad, is one of the most well known and popular dishes throughout the country.
Among the mixture in the dish, tea leaves, which are preserved by pickling and are slightly fermented, are the most fundamental ingredient.
History of tea
Tea is a hugely popular beverage around the world, but the origins of the plant are traced back to the area of northern Myanmar and southern China, including the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, bordering Myanmar.
Tea has been a major part of the culture in Myanmar for a very long time – I’m not sure exactly how long, but I do know tea is highly important throughout Myanmar. Myanmar is in fact one of the few, if only countries in the world, that has a tradition of both eating and drinking tea.
Where to eat lahpet thoke (လက်ဖက်သုတ်)?
I’m not fully sure about other parts of Myanmar, but in Yangon, if you’re looking to eat some lahpet thoke (လက်ဖက်သုတ် Burmese tea salad), there are two different places to find it.
Number one is at a sit down restaurant. It’s a very typical Myanmar dish, and can usually be found at nearly all Burmese restaurants – places like Feel Restaurant (more on this place soon).
Number two is at street food tea stalls. The indicator that you need to look for is a bunch of plastic tupperware looking tubs at the stall (like in the photo above, right side table), which is an indicator that they serve a variety of Burmese salads.
The salads served at places like this, are a little more complex, and take a few more ingredients, than the salads like tofu thoke (coming soon) that you can order from the carrying pole mobile street food carts.
For salads in Myanmar, the ingredients are usually all tossed into a metal mixing bowl, and then hand mixed.
On my last trip to Myanmar a few years ago, I don’t remember any vendors using plastic gloves to mix the salad, but this trip seemed like almost all the street food vendors I ate at, used a plastic throw-away glove for mixing the salads.
I think that’s a good step in improving sanitary conditions of street food eating in Myanmar. But anyway, after she tossed in all the ingredients for my salads, and mixed them up thoroughly, she then plated them on small metal saucers.
Lahpet thoke (လက်ဖက်သုတ်)
The main ingredients in most plates of lahpet thoke (လက်ဖက်သုတ်) include pickled tea leaves, slices of tomato, shaved cabbage, fried peas, roasted peanuts, sesame seeds, ginger, and garlic.
The dressing is oil based, usually peanut oil, combined with a bit of fish sauce and lime juice.
On the streets, I noticed they also added some powder, which looked like Knorr flavoring, which was surely a combination of flavoring and MSG. At restaurants perhaps they don’t use this type of flavor enhancer, which is surely not part of the traditional recipe.
Salads are a major part of the food in Myanmar, and there’s no salad that’s more popular and widely beloved than lahpet thoke (လက်ဖက်သုတ်) or pickled tea leaf salad.
Lahpet thoke (လက်ဖက်သုတ်) makes a wonderful accompaniment to a full meal, or is a wonderful light snack to enjoy while sitting on the side of the street drinking cups of hot tea.
Whatever setting you choose, make sure you don’t miss eating tea leaf salad when you’re in Yangon, Myanmar.
Salad stalls in Yangon
You’ll find identical tea and salad stalls, like the one pictured above, scattered everywhere throughout Yangon. But that being said, not all tea stalls have it.
Look for a tea stall that has a table set up with a variety of ingredients in plastic tubs, and then you can be quite certain they will have lahpet thoke (လက်ဖက်သုတ်) waiting for you.
This particular stall pictured, is near Sule Pagoda on the corner of Maha Bundala and 19th street.
by Mark Wiens
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