Lahpet or tea leaf salad is a rich, varied and unique dish but perhaps due to a paucity of foreign visitors over recent years, Burmese food is little known outside of the country. If you’re planning on travelling here, it’ll pay to know a few of the most famous and common Burmese dishes that you’ll come across so you can dive straight in. Here’s a selection of our favourite.
Lahpet or tea leaf salad
If any dish from Burma is known outside its borders, it’s likely to be tea-leaf salad, or laphet in Burmese. It’s the national signature dish if ever there was one. We’ve not come across a similar salad elsewhere in Southeast Asia (perhaps someone will correct us), and while the sour flavour of the fermented tea-leaves can be a surprise at first, many travellers acquire a taste for it and return home raving about it. The ingredients are ubiquitous in Burmese markets: dark green mashed leaves and an assortment of fried beans and nuts.
Tourists could knock up your own lahphet in two minutes with the addition of some diced tomatoes (some versions have sliced white cabbage) plus chillies if desired and a spoon of peanut or perhaps sesame oil to bind the ingredients. Note that for locals the salad is more often a snack than a main dish (shan fish tomato) and you’ll see complementary offerings beside green tea in homes or chic souvenir shops, and it may be brought out as an after-dinner snack in upmarket restaurants. Such ‘posh’ versions are often served in purpose-made, segmented lacquer dishes as seen below.