The latest edition of AFAR is on sale, and inside you will find our feature on the Burmese pickled tea leaf salad known as laphet thote. This is such an exuberant dish with hot, tangy, bitter, salty flavors that tingle every little nook of the mouth. If you’ve never had the opportunity to try laphet thote, I urge you to find the nearest Burmese restaurant, or make your own. Check your local Asian market for key ingredients, or order online here. (The article includes a recipe from a longstanding laphet thote vendor near Sule Pagoda.)
We will never know for sure, but this might have been the story that got us deported in May. We had planned to visit a market selling laphet thote ingredients—dried beans and peas—but we got the boot the night before our visit.
Families traditionally store laphet thote ingredients in lacquerware trays such as the above. This display belongs to U Zaw Hein, whose family has owned and operated the Ah Yee Taung pickled tea leaf business in Mandalay for more than a century. Ingredients include three styles of tea leaf; a variety of crispy seeds, beans and nuts; and an insect that lives in spirulina ponds. Laphet thote is a welcoming dish, served to guests with tea and betel.
Below: large sacks of tea leaves for sale at a market in central Mandalay.