Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lap Pat Dok ( Tea Leaf Salad)

“ I don’t think Burmese Food is a good idea.” -Is what the Tea Drinker moaned to me this morning, as he was lying in bed. That’s what he thinks- I had it all planned out. The “good idea” was already in my head, and I was eager to hit the road to Mingalaba Restaurant in Burlingame. The night before at a wine tasting I met a young couple who were vegetarian, and ate mostly ethnic food. Of course, I inquired of their favorite restaurants in the area. They immediately told me about Mingalaba. I asked them to write it down, since to me it sounded like- “Mama Mia”, and I was pretty sure that was not a Burmese restaurant.

We headed out, and using my nifty i-phone, I rattled the menu off to Dan while he was driving. “Don’t worry, we can order light”. “Look, they have Green Papaya salad”, and then, I sealed the deal with Lap Pat Dok (tea leaf salad). Whew. I was getting worried, that we would end up somewhere safe, like a café shop- sipping lattes, and eating west coast bagels. Enjoying a Tea Leaf Salad sounded like an adventure, and could surely transport us to another culture.

Burma, currently called Myanmar, shares borders with India, China, Laos, and Thailand. Burmese food pulls from each one of these culinary havens, bringing together a wonderful array of spices, and ingredients. Lap Pat Dok is a salad that is centered around Burmese tea leaves. Tea is not only drunk in Burma, it’s also eaten!

The tea is fermented or pickled, and the appearance is almost similar to a pesto or paste. The Lap Pat Dok is typically prepared table side by your server. With the Burmese tea leaves in the center of the plate, our server pointed out the other ingredients: tomatoes, green cabbage, dried grounded shrimp, fried garlic, sesame seeds, peanuts, split yellow peas, and chiles. She then proceeded to squeeze fresh lemon juice onto the leaves, and fold in the array of ingredients creating a delicious and delightful salad. It was a wonderful mixture of tangy citrus, highlighted by crunchy treats. We backed the salad up with House Special Noodles. One of the restaurants popular dishes- flat noodles that tasted homemade and melted in your mouth tossed with coconut chicken, shredded lime leaves, yellow peas ground to a fine powder, topped off with a combination of onions and thin noodles that were fried. Need I say more?

I would love to prepare Lap Pat Dok at home. Not sure, where I would find Burmese tea leaves, or how one would go about pickling their tea leaves. Maybe a vodka party? Okay, sorry. I am giddy from the all that caffeine in the salad. In any case, I have the Tea Drinker on the project.

Enjoy more Ethnic Food...

By the way, the reason behind why the Tea Drinker felt that Burmese food was not a good idea was because he was still reeling from a food hangover. The night before after my wine seminar, we had dinner at the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay. No Burmese food in sight, but a setting along the coast backed by a multi-course meal perfectly paired with a different wine for each course. Dan’s menu consisted of an appetizer of Dungeness crab salad mixed with avocado cream, mid-course of glazed pork belly accompanied by creamy polenta, onto a very filling main course of braised short ribs alongside pureed Yukon gold potatoes and rainbow cauliflower. Dessert was chocolate upon chocolate. The wines consisted of a Pinot blanc from Alsace, a Crozes-Hermitage, a lovely Syrah based wine from the Northern Rhone, and a Banylus, a fortified French wine. Now, you can see why I had to work my magic to get Dan to go to out for Burmese food. He thinks that the tea business is exhausting, try peddling wine!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Honey, I am home!

Hello, and greetings from the road! I am in Orchard Park, NY, and am taking a "bye-week"- I believe that is a Football term?! Appropriate, since I am in the hometown of the Buffalo Bills. In any case, I am taking a pass on posting something brilliant today. The picture to the left was emailed to me by the Tea Drinker. Apparently, we have some visitors at our home in Napa Valley. Is Dan trying to tell me something? Is he now in the honey business, too? Well, it would be a perfect match with teas. Stay tuned, as I may post later this week- Oh, the suspense!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

How to Grill a Whole Fish, or Not

The Tea Drinker was quite adventurous this weekend. He began Saturday as suspected by making me a wonderful robust cup of Vithankande tea, and then he announced that he was willing to join me and 30 other campers for an early morning Boot Camp class. We ran, skipped, lunged, leaped, and shuffled our way to health. It’s a mysterious thing after boot camp, you are immediately energized, and feel like you can face the day, and tackle anything. That is until this feeling of "super human" powers wears off later, and you’re staring at your half-eaten meal. Now wait a minute, I am getting ahead of myself...

After Boot Camp, we trooped off to Model Bakery. Doesn't everyone reward themselves after strenuous exercise with homemade English muffins right out of the oven, slathered in butter, and apricot jam? No? Well, we do. It was the weekend, after all. We were headed home for a day packed with house cleaning, yard work, and menu planning for Easter, until the Tea Drinker declared that we were going to grill a whole fish! The euphoria was definitely running high. It sounded exciting to me. I was game. So, we set off to Whole Foods.

How hard can it be to grill a Whole Fish? Put it this way, we should have started with smelt, or maybe miniature sardines from Monterey bay. At Whole Foods, we talked to the fishmonger, and decided on a 3 pound black cod, gutted, and scaled. We put a few other things in our basket, such as broccoli rabe, olives, lemons, fontina cheese, Italian Peasant bread, and a nice Italian white wine. We had a theme, and we were running with it!

We started the evening by enjoying a watered down version of a Negroni, a refreshing Italian cocktail that consists of gin, campari, sweet vermouth, and lots of soda water. Next up, we steamed the broccoli rabe, then chopped the florets and stalks, tossed with fresh garlic, olive oil, dried oregano, and a splash of red wine vinegar. With grilled slices of the fresh peasant bread in hand, we topped it with the broccoli rabe mixture, and grated fontina cheese. This was all enjoyed while sipping a very nice dry Falanghina from the Campania region of Italy.

We pulled out Mario Batali’s – Simple Italian Food. We were off to a roaring start! We lit the grill, poured ourselves another glass of wine, took the fish out of the refrigerator, and then an odd feeling came over me. A daunting feeling, like the first time I cooked a Thanksgiving turkey. We had Mario’s book by our side, and the words jumped off the page at us -“to grill a whole fish requires confidence that only experience can bring….to over cook a whole fish is better than under cooking by a few seconds…” and “practice before serving it to the President’s wife…” Geez, now politics are involved!

Sprinkled only with salt and pepper, and brushed with olive oil, the whole fish went right on to the barbecue. We turned it every 3 to 4 minutes for a total of 14 minutes. We stared in agony as our fish withered, and fell apart before our eyes. The black cod came off the grill undercooked, and had to be finished in the oven under the broiler. Oh, heck. It did not look appetizing, and our confidence waned. So, we abadonded the grill, and dived into Kara’s Cupcakes, instead. Its at this point that the Tea Drinker decided to work off his sugar high by demonstrating his new found Boot Camp move- a version of a squat, push up, jump thrust into the air. Result: a broken big toe. No kidding.

To grill a fish, or not!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

What’s all the flutter about Twitter?

That is what I am trying to figure out. So, I just dove in, signed up for a Twitter account, and began “tweeting”. Do I even know what tweeting is? Not really. I owned a parakeet once, but I feel that this may be a bit more profound. It certainly did not stop me from convincing the Tea Drinker to sign up, too. I am fascinated by social networking. There is so much information to be had by using the Internet. My number one goal is to help my husband get Drink the Leaf’s name out there. That’s my role as the Wife of a Tea Drinker!

As Twitter’s website states: “...a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate...stay connected...through quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?” You have to answer this question in 140 characters or less. I love that. And as you type, the ticker counts down the characters. I love that pressure, too. You better be doing something interesting. Who wants to read that you are doing nothing? Or that you had Eggs Benedict for breakfast. People may want to know where you had those eggs, though.

To offer useful information is even better, yet. This is what sucked me into Twitter. You can follow individuals that have a wealth of knowledge, and the best part is that these people are are willing to share this information. It can also give you the objective to strive for something interesting to talk about -to answer that question-What are you doing???

How can Twitter help your business? The key is to “follow” other user’s tweets, which are text based updates. I typed in “tea”, and hundreds of names popped up, from business owners, organizations, tea enthusiasts, to tea bloggers. A great way to communicate and connect with knowledgeable people that share the same passion as you: loose leaf tea. These short messages are sent to you, and if something catches your eye, you can read that person’s profile, and learn more about them and their business. Reciprocating seems to be the protocol. If you follow someone, they follow you. Celebrities twitter, too. I heard recently that Kirk Douglas ( for crying out loud, he is 92 years old, and is using Twitter) is now using this social media.

Check it out, and sign up to follow us on Twitter. It's free. We promise to bring you interesting, and useful information. Hurry up, and join. There still seems to be plenty of room with only 5 million users tweeting up a storm. Now, that is social networking!