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Laphet Thote: Burmese Tea Leaf Salad

Burmese Tea Leaf Salad
Tea leaf salad in a traditional Burmese container

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.

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Watermelon & Pickled Green Papaya Salad

Nothing else reminds me more of summertime than a fruit salad.  Chef Cedric Tovar’s watermelon and pickled green papaya salad is like taking a dip in the pool on a hot summer’s day.  Refreshingly sweet watermelon is paired with tangy pickled green papaya and is all tied together with a splash of WorldFoods Coconut and Lime Dressing to create a chorus of sweet, salty, and sour flavors that sing in your mouth.  Cedric made this at the launch party for World to Table, and it was so good I decided to make it again myself.

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