My first encounter with Laphet Thote, tea leaf salad, was at the Burmese restaurant Village Mingala in the East Village. There’s something about the sharp zing and pronounced flavor of fermentation that really speaks to me. While the namesake tea leaves were the star of the show, the roasted peanuts, along with a smattering of nuts and seeds stirred into the dish, played a strong supporting role, offering a rounded, nutty contrast to the sharp, pronounced flavor of fermented tea leaves. But before I could return to Village Mingala for a second taste, I was sad to learn that the restaurant had closed down.
Eaten the authentic Burmese way, Laphet Thote challenges the conventional concept of salad. The first thing that comes to mind when you think “salad” is some sort of leafy green. Well, in a Laphet Thote, there are none. The laphet, the Burmese word for these fermented tea leaves, is served in the center of the a dish with other assorted ingredients, which differ according to your preference, encircle the star of the dish.