Friday, August 18, 2017

A real pickle: a guide to preserving

Tea leaves, or in Myanmar, laphet, are important in our daily life. We use them in a lot of teas, such as Chinese tea, Indian tea and sweet tea, but we also use them in the famous pickled tea leaves salad called laphet thoke.

Laphet ThokeLaphet Thoke

This salad is one of the most traditional Myanmar dishes and for Myanmar people it is also a symbol of generosity, sharing and loving, because the salad is usually made when the family is gathered or when you welcome guests. There are so many ways to make the salad, as there are many different types of marinated pickled tea leaves.

You can make it in different flavours and in different styles – sweet, sour or spicy – it’s your choice, but it is a must to eat them with crispy fried butter beans, fried chickpeas, fried garlic, roasted sesame seeds, roasted peanuts and dried shrimps. Traditionally, we prepare the leaves by laying out, separately, one tea leaf after another on a big plate.

Then we garnish the mixture with garlic and chilli and drizzle peanut oil on them. Although there are ready-made guides that mix all the ingredients, the mixture is one thing that I make from scratch. I worry about the MSG content, which is a popular ingredient for most of the ready-made mixes, so I am always trying to make my own pickled tea leaves.

I also suggest buying one packet of fried beans and fried garlic and making your own fried beans mixture, while most of the premixed beans mixtures have MSG content. It’s not hard at all to make it yourself. It can easily be done within half an hour and then you can avoid the MSG content in your food.

Ingredients for the pickled tea leaves

180-200g plain tea leaves
2 teaspoons salt
¼ cup vegetable oil and a bit more to preserve
1½ tablespoon ime juice
3 cloves garlic (diced)
A couple of crushed chillis

Preparation of the pickled tea leaves

Discard the harsh leaves and stalks.

Wash the tea leaves gently with warm water and knead with generous amount of salt.

Then gently squeeze the leaves to get the bitter taste off. Repeat this procedure three or four times.

Then mix them with salt, garlic, lime juice and vegetable oil.

Put the marinated tea leaves in a clean glass jar and pour more vegetable oil to make sure that all the leaves are immersed in the oil.

A day later you have homemade pickled tea leaves.

Ingredients for the crispy beans mixture

1 cup crispy fried chickpeas or yellow split beans
1 cup crispy fried lablab beans
1 cup fried garlic
2/3 cup roasted sesame seeds
½ cup roasted and shelled pumpkin seeds
1 cup roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preparation of the crispy beans mixture

Add vegetable oil into a wok and heat it on medium flame.

When the oil is hot enough, fry the peanuts for a minute and stir constantly.

Then turn the heat down and add fried beans and fried garlic to fry for another minute.

Sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds follow.

Fry for a couple of minutes.

Then cool the mixture down.

When it is completely cool, keep in an airtight jar.

Ingredients for the pickled tea leaves salad
(6 persons)

6 tablespoons homemade pickled tea leaves
1 cup crispy beans mixture
4-6 small green chillis
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup sweet corn
2 tablespoons dried shrimp powder
150g cabbage
2 tomatoes, sliced1 tablespoons peanut oil (fried/refined)
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice

Preparation of the salad

Boil the sweet corn or cook the frozen ones until it is soft enough to eat. Sauté the sweet corns with a teaspoon of peanut oil in a sauce pan and set aside. Roll the cabbage leaves in a row and slice them very finely. Slice the tomatoes and dice the green chillies. Peel the garlic and slice them finely as well. Use a big bowl and add the pickled tea leaves, the crispy double fried beans mixture, cabbage, tomatoes, sweet corns, garlic, green chillies, fish sauce, dried shrimp powder, lime juice and fried peanut oil. Mix well. If you prefer sourer or spicier or more salty, add more lime juice or more chili or more fish sauce. For the vegetarian, use salt rather than fish sauce. Serve with warm plain rice and jasmine tea or Shan tea.