taken from hsa*ba, burmese cookbook
Off the main road, down a small muddy track, we stumbled upon a few houses where piles of tea leaves were left on bamboo mats to dry in the open air. This reminded me of pickled tea leaves (laphet), one of my favourite nibbles.
Laphet is essentially green tea. The young leaves are plucked, steamed and buried underground from four to seven months for the fermentation process to take place. When the pickled tea leaves are ready, they are eaten with crispy garlic, sesame seeds, roasted peanuts, dried shrimps, fried butter beans and chana dal.
Traditionally laphet is served when we receive visitors, in an elaborately decorated lacquerware with different compartments to house each ingredient. A little of each crispy titbit and laphet are spooned straight into the mouth and savoured slowly, sometimes with a bite of raw garlic and green chilli. A cup of hot tea completes the ritual.
For those new to laphet, I premix the salad, tossing in a little onion oil, diced tomato then season with a squeeze of lime juice and a dash of fish sauce. This salad makes a great appetiser served with a cool glass of beer to whet the appetite.