Notes for an upcoming presentation and a booklet about Myanmar's favorite snack food: laphet thoke.
Myanmar's national dish and a very healthy snack.
Myanmar is the only country where tea leaves are eaten. Translated into English, 'laphet thoke' means 'pickled tea leaf salad'.
Uncooked,like a salad, laphet thoke starts with a foundation of fermented tea leaves,to which are added a variety of ingredients, such as tomatoes, garlic, peanuts,fried beans,small fish,cabbage, chickpeas and ginger.Oil is almost always used, the best considered to be sesame oil or peanut oil. Lemon or limes are also used.
It is said that laphet thoke was served as part of peacemaking negotiations. Though all parties shared a common dish, each individual could create a salad to suit their own tastes.
Caffeine! Laphet thoke is made from tea, and often used to help people stay awake.
I discovered laphet toke at some of the food shops in Singapore's Peninsula Plaza, which is often referred to as Little Myanmar. In January of 2016, Sayuri Okayama and I spent ten days in Yangon, primarily to research laphet thoke for a small booklet.
I enjoy laphet thoke because it has a great "mouth feel". It is not much to look at,but when chewed slowly, a beautiful experience occurs. Crunchiness, softness, bitterness,citrus tastes, earthy tastes, the sparks of garlic and chilies; all of these stimulate the mouth and tongue to create a something like a flavorful tea but with much more character. The aftertaste is like a mirage; almost like the sweetness of fresh water.
Laphet thoke + white rice= ecstasy
A recipe for laphet thoke...
Another recipe and a great introduction by S. H. Fernando Jr.
Richard Eilers, writing about laphet thoke for The Guardian
Laphet thoke Wikipedia