What IS lahpet? It is fermented tea leaves which is then pickled and sold as a paste. In Myanmese culture, Lahpet is ranked extremely highly – only the best of the tea leaves at harvest is set aside for fermenting, while the rest is dried and processed as tea leaves for drinking. The freshly harvested tea leaves are briefly steamed, packed into bamboo vats and set in pits, pressed by heavy weights to encourage fermentation.
Lahpet is served to honoured guests and it also plays an important role at weddings and at religious festivals. There are 2 styles of serving Lahpet. When served formally it is an after meal snack, accompanied with roasted nuts and seeds, lentils and slices of fried garlic. Informally, Lahpet is served in a form of a salad. Mixed with shredded cabbage, sliced tomatoes and hard-boiled eggs and drizzled with some fish sauce and lime juice with a topping of nuts, seeds and dhals, this salad is called Lahpet Thoke. An image of this dish is shown above. Non-Myanmese refer to this dish as “Tea Leaf Salad”.
Another version is Lahpet Thamin. This is most easily described as Lahpet Thoke served on rice. Have a look at the image below.
Some comments about the unusual Ingredients
In the background (on the left) is Pae Sone Kyaw, a packet of fried mixed nuts, seeds and dhals whilst (on the right) is a packet of Lahpet (they come in 2 main flavours, bitter or sour). On the plate in the foreground are fried chilli flakes which is optional and will be sprinkled on the mixture for some spiciness. All these may be purchased from one of the many shops in Peninsula Plaza, Singapore.
Despite the large number of Myanmese residing in the USA, there seems to be difficulty in buying Lahpet and Pae Sone Kyaw at the Asian groceries so many resort to mail order.
Each family’s Lahpet Thoke varies so no two recipes are the same. There is so much liberty in creating this Salad. What has been given below is just a guide. Go for it!
Ingredients for Lahpet Thamin
RECIPE Lahpet Thamin
Serves: 4 persons
- 2 to 3 cups of steaming jasmine rice (I tend towards a mixture of red and brown long grain rice)
- 2 to 3 Tbsp of Lahpet
- 8 Tbsps of Pae Sone Kyaw
- 2 medium fully ripened tomatoes, washed and sliced into wedges
- 6 to 8 limau kasturi ( also known as calamansi) or lemon wedges
- 2 Tbsp of sliced fresh red and green chillies
- 2 Tbsp fried sliced garlic
- 2 Tbsp of fried small dried shrimps
- 2 cups of washed, finely shredded drained white cabbage
- 1 to 2 Tbsp of Fish sauce
- Salt to taste
1. Divide the cooked rice into 4 dinner plates or bowls. Half each limau kasturi and remove the seeds.
2. On each individual serving of rice (in different sections) place about half a Tbsp of Lahpet, 1 to 2 Tbsp of Pae Sone Kyaw, 2 to 3 tomato wedges, 1 tsp of dried shrimp, and 1/4 to half a cup of shredded cabbage.
3. On an already full plate, top each serving with some fried garlic, sliced chillies and two or 3 halves of limau kesturi.
4. Serve to each guest, with fish sauce, salt and fried chilli flakes. Each guest should then should promptly mix all ingredients well and enjoy this deceptively delicious dish.
Lahpet Thoke is a salad and may be served with a Myanmese Beef and Pumpkin Curry. Click here for the recipe. However, if you are preparing Lahpet Thamin, it is a complete meal in itself.
A plate of cold, freshly cut seasonal fruits is always appropriate. In Singapore, we are fortunate to have several creameries that sell ice cream with local flavours like coconut, ice kachang and pulot hitam.
If you would like to venture into making an easy dessert, why not try one of these?
1. Almond Jelly + Longans Click here.
2. Coconut Jelly with Can Lychees. Click here.
3. Sago Pudding. Click here.
4. Ginger Poached Pears. Click here.