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!

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