Food in Myanmar is wonderful. Take this popular Burmese expression (translated into English, of course): “Of all the fruit, the mango’s the best; of all the meat, the pork’s the best; and of all the leaves, lahpet’s the best.” I figure, if I agree with the first two (mango and pork are my favorite of their respective categories), then I’m sure to love laphet, and love it I sure do.
Laphet thoke (pronounced la-pet tock, keeping in mind that Burmese usually reduce the inflection on final consonants) literally means pickled tea salad. There are many different types of laphet thoke, some sour, some spicy, some with ginger, some with tomatoes, the varieties go on and on. The flavor of laphet itself is hard to describe. Laphet has a soft, almost pureed consistency with a rich, mouth-filling taste. I find that it imparts a taste that’s reminiscent of a subtle cheese into the salad, but that of course is a horrible description. The problem is, laphet tastes like laphet, making describing it nigh on impossible.
Typically, laphet thoke has at least the following ingredients:
- Laphet (obvs.)
- Fried broad beans
- Fried lentils
- Sesame seeds
- Fried garlic
- Peanut oil
My favorite versions of this salad included fresh garlic, pickled ginger, tomatoes, fresh onions, and chili peppers. What’s great is that often you get this salad along with other salads that you can then mix and match together. Crunchy, flavorful, and exotic, it’s got a lot going for it.
Great as a light snack or as an addition to a meal, I had laphet thoke at least once a day while in Myanmar (sometimes twice a day) and never tired of it. If you have a chance, try Burma Superstar the next time you’re in San Francisco, or go to your local Burmese eatery to try this wonderful dish.