Laphet Thoke: Have you tried Burmese tea leaves salad?

Do you know that in Burmese culture, betel, tobacco and a dish of pickled tealeaves represent hospitality and a manner of welcoming a visitor? It used to be an essential custom in old days to offer a visitor with such items. These days, people are more aware of the downsides of tobacco and betel chewing habits, and consume them less, particularly for the new generation. So, what else is left to welcome a visitor? Instead of betel and tobacco, many families will serve you a dish of pickled tealeaves when you visit their place. In Burmese, a dish of pickled tea is called Laphet Thoke. ‘Laphet’ means green tea and ‘thoke’ means salad. Therefore, Laphet Thoke, which is a combination of flavors and textures that basically consists of soft pickled green tea leaves, roasted peanuts and toasted sesame seeds, is also commonly called tea leaves salad in English. Depending on what a family prefers, some put garlic, dried shrimp and chopped green tomato. Laphet Thoke as I said is used as a welcome snack for visitors but sometimes also as a final dish before finishing a meal.

This pickled tea leaves salad holds an interesting history. It’s a symbol of peace in the era of Burmese kings. You must be wondering how these days’ snack used to symbolize peace in the old days? In the past, Laphet Thoke was traded between kings when two countries or territories reached a final agreement over their dispute, usually wars. Accepting to eat tea leaves salad was a mean of giving promise and agreeing on peace. Nowadays, most of the Burmese take it that your acceptance to eat their Laphet Thoke means you express satisfactions of their hospitality. Then you don’t want to turn down if Burmese people offer you some tea leaves salad. Taking only a spoon is enough to express your appreciation on their hospitality. But you can even have it all if you love the snacks.

It is easily available everywhere in Myanmar. However, the tastes is different based on how it is prepared. It might be surprising for you when you taste it for the first time, since it have bitter taste from the tea leaves. But that’s what Burmese cuisine is all about, strong tastes. One famous style of tea leaves salad today is A-Yee-Thoung, although its main ingredient: fresh green tea, comes from Shan state, its preparation is made in Mandalay style.

Ingredients for Laphet Thoke

There are many ways to prepare this salad as we told you, but here is a list of ingredients we generally use to make Burmese tea leaves salad. These quantities can serve up to five persons as a snack:

– Pickled green tea (5 tablespoons)
– Sesame seeds, toasted and lightly crushed (2 or 3 tablespoons)
– Roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped (3 or 4 tablespoons)
– Roasted soybeans, lightly crushed (3 tablespoons) (optional)
– Chilli (optional)
– Garlic
– Peanut oil (1 table spoon)
– Tomato slices (optional)

How to serve Laphet Thoke

It is presented in two ways. The first one is a non-mixed style of preparation; each type of ingredient is piled on a platter separately. It’s also known as Ah-Pho-Gyi-Thoke, which means ‘the presentation for the elderly’. For the other style, all ingredients are well mixed and stirred together. By doing this, you get a variety of tastes and textures in once bite, it’s crunchy, it’s oily, it’s spicy and bitter, and it’s delicious!! But actually, I prefer Ah Pho Gyi Thoke, since I can select only the ingredients that I like the most. What my palate like the most, is when I add a bit of pickled tea and small dry shrimps in each bite, yummy!!