It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why tea leaf salad—laphet thoke—is so addictive, but it has something to do with its singular combination of textures and savory, salty, mildly sour flavors—and, of course, the caffeine kick you get after eating it. This version of laphet thoke is served in a large bowl with heaps of peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, crispy garlic, fried yellow split peas, tomato, jalapeño, and shredded lettuce. The textures and flavors all enhance the deep umami quality of the laphet.
4 servings, as part of a larger meal
- To make the salad, place a bed of lettuce in the center of a large plate or platter. Spoon the tea leaf dressing into the center of the lettuce.
- Around the lettuce, arrange separate piles of fried garlic, split peas, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, tomato, and jalapeño. Sprinkle with shrimp powder and drizzle with fish sauce.
- Before serving, squeeze 2 lemon wedges over the plate. Using 2 forks, mix the ingredients together until the tea leaves lightly coat the lettuce. Taste, adding more lemon or fish sauce at the table, if desired.
- Soak the laphet for 5 minutes in cold water to extract some of the bitterness. Drain, squeezing the leaves to remove excess water. Taste the leaves. If they still taste extremely bitter, soak and drain again.
- Put the leaves in a food processor with the garlic and chile flakes and pulse a few times. Add the lemon juice and half of the oil, briefly pulse, and then, with the processor running, drizzle in the rest of the oil. Add 1 teaspoon salt. You will have about 1⁄2 cup of tea leaf dressing.
- Line a heatproof bowl with a strainer. Line a plate with paper towels.
- In a wok or small saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat for a minute or two (the oil shouldn’t be scorching hot).
- Add the garlic and gently stir into the oil. When bubbles start to form rapidly around the garlic, decrease the heat to low and cook, stirring often, until the garlic is an even golden color and nearly completely crisp, about 3 minutes.
- . If the garlic starts to darken too quickly, remove it from the heat and let it continue to fry in the oil. If the garlic needs more time to fry, return the wok to low heat and continue to fry.
- Pour the contents of the wok into the strainer-lined bowl. Lift the strainer up and shake off the excess oil. Scatter the garlic onto the lined plate. The garlic should crisp up as it cools. The chips can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 month.
Reprinted with permission from Burma Superstar, copyright © 2017 by Desmond Tan and Kate Leahy. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.