It would be an understatement to say that Burmese Laphet is a must-try if you are in Myanmar. There is a famous folk saying about food among our people: “Of all the fruit, the mango’s the best; of all the meat, the pork; and of all the leaves, lahpet.” Indeed, Laphet effortlessly earns its title for its unique savor: being bittersweet, pungent and leafy in texture.
Burmese people love green tea and eat the leaves in various preparations, all of which are worth a shot. In fact, Laphet is pickled tea and one of the common preparations. Green tea is widely cultivated in the eastern part of Myanmar particular Shan State where the weather is cool and perfect for the plantation. The process of making Laphet from green tea leaves includes steaming the young leaves, pressing them with heavy objects and finally leaving them to complete the fermentation process.
Laphet can be served in two distinct forms. A-hlu laphet is widely seen in Burmese traditional celebrations like wedding receptions, Buddhist novitiation ceremony and donation events. It is simply a pile of Laphet dipped in oil, accompanied by side ingredients such as crisp fried peas, nuts, garlic, toasted sesame, dried shrimp, and ginger. In some occasions people would use a Burmese traditional serving plate called Laphet Ohk, as seen in the picture above.
Another type of Laphet is Laphet Thohk or, in English, green tea salad. It can be commonly seen as the main dish during meal time. All the ingredients used in A-hlu laphet are mixed; after that, a few drops of fish oil, fresh tomato slices and shredded cabbage are added which significantly increase the bulk of the preparation as well as the flavors. It can also be mixed with rice to make a Burmese “fast food” called laphet htamin thohk (Green tea rice salad.)
In addition, non-fermented green tea is used for two well-known drinks in Myanmar. The first one is hot green tea. Some green tea leaves not suitable for fermentation process are sun-dried and treated with hot water to make a simple cup of hot green tea. Many Burmese “tea shops” serve this drink on a complimentary basis; people love to drink it slowly during casual chats and meet-ups with friends. This hot green tea is said to control the blood cholesterol and ultimately girls tend to take it as part of their weight-loss therapy. The second drink form is called milk tea, where milk or condensed milk and sugar are added to boiled water treated with green tea. Burmese tea shops sell varieties of milk tea depending on the amount of condensed milk and sugar included, all of which have interesting names. When you order the waiter a cup of milk tea, the usual response from him will be the long list of names; however, you should simply ask for a normal cup to enjoy a common taste.
With such versatility in usage, green tea is one of our people’s favourites for generations. You will surely enjoy tasting all the forms described.
By Thein Min Swe, ASEAN Correspondent from Myanmar