အသီးမှာ သရက် အသားမှာ ၀က် အရွက်မှာ လက်ဖက်္
"Of all the fruit, the mango is the best; of all the meat, the pork is the best; and of all the leaves, lahpet is the best"
- Traditional Burmese Proverb
LORD OF THE LEAVES
Myanmar’s delicious edible fermented tea, known locally as Lahpet, has been enjoyed across the country for centuries. Lahpet is the delectable essential ingredient in the iconic national dish Lahpet Thoke, a tea leaf salad, and is aptly described by Thazin Han as 'Lord Of The Leaves'!
Bursting with antioxidants Lahpet is a healthy and tasty addition to a range of dishes, but can also happily be eaten on it’s own as a snack.
It is unlike other fermented foods you may have eaten, including Sauerkraut or Kimchi, as well as being vegan and free from sugar, dairy and gluten.
These famous tea leaves have been fermented for three months, producing a unique umami flavour.
Historically offered as a peace symbol after a dispute, Lahpet is central to Burmese life. More often than not, people looking for tea in Myanmar are searching for tea to eat rather than to drink, be that at a restaurant, street stalls, teashop, or at home.
Lahpet is also traditionally enjoyed at times of celebration. It is customary to have Lahpet as one of the courses at weddings and special ceremonies, while it is also commonly offered as a spiritual donation.
Whilst Lahpet can be eaten on its own, it is most commonly eaten in a salad, Lahpet Thoke, or mixed in with rice, Lahpet Thamin. The versatile taste makes Lahpet a tasty addition to a range of dishes. Check out our recipe page for inspiration!
Tea is harvested from April through to November, but the best quality leaves are those collected between late March and mid-April. This period is known as Shwe Pyi.
As the leaves for Lahpet are to be fermented (leading to a loss of the delicate flavours so sort after in green tea production) it is seen as a waste to use the Shwe Pyi leaf and so often the monsoon leaves are used, June through to September.
In fact legend has it Lahpet was first discovered after farmers stored their fresh tea leaves during the wet season, a lack of sunlight restricting their ability to properly dry the leaves. By the time the sun returned the wet leaves had started to naturally ferment. Instead of throwing away the ruined leaves they started to use them in cooking.
Soon after harvesting the fresh leaf is steamed or placed in hot water for less than a minute. This is in order to soften the leaves to help with the fermentation process.
It is also important to properly ring the leaves after soaking to release the excess water.
This is the first quality control check.
The leaves are packed into woven baskets lined with a reusable inner.
Our leaves are then left for 3 months. Locally they can be fermented for over 6 months, the longer the ferment the stronger the flavour.
It is important to have a hole at the bottom of the baskets and to turn them to let any excess moisture drain.
After fermenting the leaves are washed.
It is important to clean the leaves and remove any impurities, this is also the second quality control check pulling any leaves seen to be not up to standard.
The washed leaves are now mixed with our other ingredients.
The recipe we use is a special family recipe concocted by our close friends in Pindaya.
It consists of oil, lime, salt and Kombu Dashi.
Now comes the really exciting part, enjoying these delectable leaves.
Lahpet is the essential ingredient in the iconic national dish Lahpet Thoke, a tea leaf salad, seen above.
However, this versatile ingredient is used in a host of other scrumptious dishes from curries to marinades, on toast or even just enjoyed on it's own.