Burmese Tea Leaf Salad

by Robin on January 19, 2010

in VegNews Magazine


I never thought I could be enchanted by a salad, but from my first bite of Burmese tea leaf salad, I was under its spell. This addictive salad has it all: good looks, great taste, fabulous textures, and, due to the high concentration of caffeine, it also has an incomparable “energizing” after-effect that can have you bouncing off the walls, depending on your caffeine tolerance.

After my first encounter, I knew I’d need to make it at home, since the nearest Burmese restaurant is, well, not very near. However, the main ingredient proved difficult to find. The Asian market I shop in doesn’t carry fermented tea leaves, so I asked my friend in Philadelphia to try her bigger/better store. Still no luck. I finally tracked down the elusive tea leaves online and ordered them from a source in New York. Within a few days, they were delivered to my door.

If you order the salad in a Burmese restaurant, chances are it will look much like the one in my photo (I’m a sucker for composed salads anyway, and this one is as composed as it gets.) In a restaurant, the server may bring it to your table and then mix it for you tableside, ala Caesar-salad style, with the fermented tea leaves (in the center of the salad) being tossed with the other ingredients.

You can find the recipe for this amazing salad (and more info about Burmese cooking) in my Global Vegan column in the current (January/February) issue of VegNews Magazine.

By the way, if you don’t tolerate caffeine well, you’ll be happy to know that the tea leaf salad has a close cousin that can be made with pickled ginger in place of the fermented tea leaf mixture. The ginger salad is equally beautiful and delicious as the tea leaf salad, but without the caffeine kick. Anyone who ever thought salads were boring needs to try one of these!

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous January 19, 2010 at 9:28 pm

My boyfriend is Burmese – that is how I encountered the salad. And I fully agree – this salad is out of this world.
I get the leaves when I visit his family, I have not yet found a source around here.
I never arranged as beautifully as you though – I have to try that next time I do it for friends

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2 Allison, The Busy (Happy!) Vegan January 22, 2010 at 3:06 am

This looks delicious. I actually think we don't focus on salads enough! I know it's frustrating when the only thing we can eat at many restaurants is a bowl of mixed greens with olive and vinegar on the side, but when I'm at home, I'm often most satisfied by a BIG salad, filled with spinach, potatoes, pine nuts, avocado, grilled veggies… I could go on & on! Thanks for the post – I'm going to try this one!

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3 small home plans January 22, 2010 at 8:47 am

This salad is something new for me. I never saw this in any restaurant. It really looks delish.

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4 Hannah January 26, 2010 at 1:59 am

That is one of the most symmetrical salads I've ever seen – bravo!

I can't help giggling because I don't tolerate caffeine well, so got excited when you had an alternative option. Then I remembered I don't like pickled ginger… So now I'm planning to keep an eye out for your recipe but substitue something like sauerkraut! :P

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5 VeganWorldTrekker January 26, 2010 at 5:10 am

This recipe sound great! I have your vegan cookbooks and really enjoy preparing the ethnic cuisine recipes.

Check my vegan world travel advice blog site:
http://www.veganworldtrekker.com

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6 Robin at Vegan Planet January 27, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Thanks everyone for your great comments on this unusual salad.

Hannah, I think I'd opt for something other than saurkraut. How about substituting some shredded cucumber mixed with a little sesame oil and rice vinegar? That should get you where you want to go with this salad and still keep the Asian flavors.

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7 amy January 23, 2013 at 10:59 am

Hi, I’m trying to find the fermented tea leves in ny. Can you tell me where you got them??

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8 Robin January 23, 2013 at 11:14 am

Hi Amy,
I ordered them online from a company called Minthila.

Here’s their info — not sure if they have a storefront so you’ll want to call or e-mail first>
41-06, 50th Street, Apt#6C, Woodside, NY 11377, USA
Tel: (718) 672-4842
Email: sale@minthila.com
Web Site: http://www.minthila.com

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9 Shannon June 30, 2013 at 11:02 am

Hi,

I’ve been looking for a vegan recipe for this salad ever since I first tried it at a Burmese Restaurant. I can’t find this recipe on the vegnews site. Is there any way you could share it?

Thanks so much!

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10 Cindy September 21, 2013 at 11:25 am

I also can’t find the recipe.

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11 Christine June 9, 2014 at 12:02 am

I’m having trouble translating this Burmese website, since there is no burmese translator out there (some only use characters…others don’t recognize any of the words I type in)….does anyone know which one of these items is just fermented tea leaves? Thanks in advance! http://store.minthila.com/myanmarfood.html

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12 Robin June 18, 2014 at 8:12 am

I just paged through the photos until I got to what looked like fermented tea leaves!

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