Oh hey there. Let’s talk salad. Because it’s been a while. (And, let’s be real, my waistline is still recovering after those Mudslide Brownie Bites….)
This Burmese Tea Leaf Salad might need to be your next exotic culinary adventure. And believe you me, it is very much worth it.
For any of you Asian food junkies out there, Burmese food kind of having a moment right now. If you’ve been to San Francisco recently you might have noticed the vast number of Burmese restaurants popping up. Sadly we don’t seem to have one in San Diego (or if we do it has been very well hidden from me!), but I keep waiting for the trend to spread south…But, needless to say, as a resident Asian food junkie, I’m clearly without bounds when it comes to acquiring my latest Asian food craving. And thus I make frequent demands for Burmese food when we go to visit the Bay.
But sometimes you just get cravings for Burmese food and you can’t really justify another trip to the Bay Area (especially when you just got back like 1 week before), so you find yourself scouring the internet for the best recipe for DIY Burmese Tea Leaf Salad. (And then you just really need to post about it on The Gourmet Gourmand…)
The tea leaf portion is not the lettuce, but is actually the “dressing” component for the salad. The flavor is quite earthy and tangy, the result of fermenting the leaves underground for a period of weeks. (Of note- according to our most recent waiter, the US food safety regulations prohibit underground fermentation, so they make do with an above-ground container for the tea leaves). Regardless of methodological integrity, the fermented leaves are decidedly delicious.
My “fermentation” is more of a faux-fermentation as I did not feel confident in my food safety skills. The dressing is basically tea leaves marinated in vinegar, oil, and combined with aromatics. I thought the dressing had amazing flavor, and while an expert will probably be able to taste a slight difference, the results were still fabulous!Dressing aside, it also would not be Burmese Tea Leaf Salad without the addition of lots of “crunchy bits” to the salad.
Apparently, in Burma, the salad is made up entirely of dried beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and then tossed with the dressing. In the US, however, it is typical for the salad to be served as a bed of romaine lettuce and accompanied by numerous nuts, legumes, and seeds to accompany the lettuce. Fried garlic is also a must. Seriously. (Don’t skip it!)
So once your components are assembled, toss the salad with the dressing, squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice over your salad, and savor this unique taste of Burma from the comfort of your own kitchen.There are no trips required. Enjoy!
Did you make today’s recipe? I love to see what my Gourmet Gourmandians’ are cooking up! Hashtag #TheGourmetGourmand on instagram for free instalove. (And, Uhm.. You rock )
Burmese Tea Leaf Salad
_For the "Fermented" Tea Leaves_
- ½ cup loose leaf green tea I used Two Leaves Organic Sencha; recommend any green tea without dyes and the bigger the loose leaf the better/ typically higher quality.
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons finely diced ginger
- ½ shallot
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
_For the salad_
- 2 handfuls sliced romaine lettuce
- ½ cup toasted Peanuts
- Scant ¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
- Scant ¼ cup toasted sunflower seeds
- Scant ¼ cup toasted toor dal split pigeon peas, or other lentils of your choice
- 4 cloves of garlic sliced thin
- Vegetable oil for frying garlic
- 1 lemon cut into wedges
For the dressing
- Prep your tea leaves at least 1 days in advance. Pour loose leaves into a medium bowl. Pour boiling water over the leaves and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Strain and rinse with cool water. Pick through the unfurled leaves and discard any obvious twigs or woody stems.
- Return to bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit for at least 1 hour. Drain again and rinse.
- Squeeze out the tea leaves to get rid of excess water. Place leaves into your food processor or blender.
- Add garlic, ginger, shallot, sesame oil, vegetable oil, lemon juice, vinegar, fish sauce, and salt.
- Process until mixture is similar to the texture of pesto. You may need to scrape down the sides of your processor a few times.
- Pour mixture into a storage container and place in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours- dressing is best after 2-3 days of refrigeration.
For the Salad
- To prepare the salad, start by frying the garlic. Pour about ¾ cup vegetable oil in a cast iron or 10-inch frying pan. Place sliced garlic into the cold oil. Turn heat to medium low, and fry until garlic turns a light brown toasty color. Remove with a slotted spoon or spatula to a paper towel to drain.
- To assemble- mound your lettuce on a serving plate. Pour your crunchy toppings and fried garlic around the lettuce.
- Place 3 tablespoons of the tea leaves in the center of the salad.
- Just prior to serving, squeeze 1 lemon wedge over the entire salad and toss all the ingredients together; mix well to coat with the tea leaves.
- Serve immediately with extra lemon.