👨‍🍳 Lahpet (Burmese Pickled Tea) 🍵 Did You Know You Can Eat Tea Leaves? 🌿

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Did you know you can eat your discarded tea leaves? Lahpet, a Burmese pickled tea, provides a culinary high-kick whenever you need it. Two of my favorite cuisines are Bengali and Thai, so it's natural that I'd like the food of Myanmar, the country located in between these two places.

I think the various cuisines of Myanmar are highly underappreciated, and lahpet in particular is a dish that deserves much more attention and recognition. I fell in love with this dish at a now-defunct Burmese restaurant here in Cambodia, shuttered due to COVID-related loss of core customer expat and tourist customer base. Tea leaves are bitter, but when done right they are incredibly delicious and edible thanks to some Burmese ingenuity.

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🫖 Lahpet Ingredients & Preparation🌶️

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STEP 1 🌿 Accumulate Discarded Tea Leaves

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     Lahpet is super simple and there is no reason to be intimidated by this recipe because there is not even any cooking involved. The hardest part is accumulating enough tea leaves to make a small batch, but luckily in our house we have a massive amount of Cambodian green tea that we air dry after each brew and store in jar until it's lahpet time. You still aren't ready for the other ingredients yet, move on to STEP 2.

STEP 2 🔪 Process Tea Leaves

     Tea leaves are very astringent, so you can't just simply brew a batch, dry the leaves and use in your lahpet. When I acquire about a cup's worth of dried and discarded green tea, I then pick out the stems and non-leafy bits before making another batch of green tea that will be weak but drinkable. After this I put the tea leaves in a bowl of cold water and leave them in the fridge for a day, then squeeze the heck out of them and get ready for the other ingredients.

INGREDIENTS

dried (green) tea leaves | 1x cup
fresh cabbage | 1x cup finely chopped
bird's eye red chili | 1x minced
culantro (sawtooth coriander) | 20x large leaves minced
green onions | 4x stalks minced
garlic | 3x cloves minced
ginger | 2-3cm piece minced
lime zest | 2x small limes worth (approx. a heaping tablespoon)
lime juice | 2x small limes worth
non-iodized sea salt | a generous pinch

STEP 3 🌪️ Combine & Jar

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     Yes, it is literally this simple, but don't combine ingredients as strongly as the tornado emoji indicates. Simply place all the ingredients in a bowl and turn it several times to mix up all of the ingredients. I didn't bother with going through the steps of chopping, mincing, and zesting because that's very rudimentary food prep stuff. Place the mixed ingredients in a jar with a good lid and store at room temperature near a sunny window for at least 4 days. Occasionally turn the ingredients and make wipe away any condensation that may form on the inside of the lid, this will help to prevent any mold growth that may disrupt the lacto-fermentation process.

STEP 4 😝 The Taste Will Tell You When It's Ready

     I live in Cambodia, so the weather here is relatively warm, and it never takes longer than 7 days for my lahpet to reach the desired taste I am looking for. I start tasting it on day 4 and wait for the sourness to slightly overpower the astringent flavor of the leaves. When this happens, I add more salt to taste and make sure it is fully dissolved and distributed evenly before adding the cup of oil to the jar. As of now I haven't yet added my additional salt and cup of oil to my jar of lahpet, but perhaps when this batch is complete, I will share it with you in another post and show you how to use it in a lovely lahpet salad.

POST-FERMENTATION INGREDIENTS

vegetable oil | 1x cup
non-iodized sea salt | to taste

Stay Calm And Lahpet Yo' 🧘‍♂️

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     Hopefully the beauty of this jar is a good enough sales pitch. I love taking a smell each day and noticing how it changes over time. After several batches you'll earn a bit of lahpet intuition and you'll easily know when it's done. In a future post I'll show how to make lahpet thoke, the dish I fell in love with in Phnom Penh many years ago. You'll need a batch of lahpet to make it, so I might as well introduce this recipe first.

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12 comments
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Ok, those were some amazing pictures first and foremost.

Secondly, yes! Good sir I in fact did know you could eat tea leaves! 😁 Not this variety but my grandma did have a recipe she used to mash and grind together as a sort of side dish. It was... not spicy but still piquant - if that makes sense.

Thanks for sharing and making me remember my grandma! 🍻

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Very interesting, I didn't know any places other than Myanmar ate tea leaves. You're in Macedonia, correct? I will have to look for recipes from your part of the world. I once lived in Albania for 4 months, I really miss the Balkans. Thanks for stopping by my fellow Hiver.

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I was actually talking to my mom after I read your post about grandma's recipe and she had no idea, 😅 Said it wasn't all that special so she never asked her. But she has never made it herself so I think she's just posturing. Regardless, there are a lot fo recipes here, my friend. I hope you can visit us one day!

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the tea leaf salad is one of my favorite things at our local Burmese restaurant. It is basically the most popular thing there and the main reason why anyone eats there. I don't think I will ever tire of that really unique flavor

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It is one of my family's favorite dishes, shame we can't just buy this stuff at a market like the Burmese can. It's really a pain to slowly collect the leaves and then wait several days for before being able to use it the salad that is out of this world.

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I've never heard of eating tea leaves, is there anything that can be done with them that doesn't involve pickling?

!LUV

This post has been manually curated by the VYB curation project

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I didn't think so, but one of the commenters is Macedonian, and he mentioned his Grandma preparing a non-pickled tea leaf dish. I now want to research Macedoian tea leaf recipes because of this.

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Thank you for sharing this, I've never tried this before. I should try this very soon 🥰♥️

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It is truly one of my favorite dishes, well the salad made with this ingredient. In the USA I can buy fermented tea leaves at Asian markets, cutting out one of the steps, but here in Cambodia I have to make it myself because it's not part of the culture or cuisine.

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