Burmese Tea Leaf Salad – Part 1

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Pickling green tea leaves.

Pickling green tea leaves for Burmese Green Tea Salad.

Obviously we love our tea. Not only do we love drinking it but also cooking with it. Well in Myanmar (aka Burma) there is a long tradition of eating your tea leaves in the form of Burmese Tea Leaf Salad. With just a little preparation first you can enjoy this dish yourself.

In preparing Burmese Tea Leaf Salad, the tea leaves are traditionally fermented underground in clay vessels for several weeks before being used in the salad. Given that underground fermentation requires something of an underground chamber that is bug and pest proof as well as holds a consistent temperature, this is not a reasonable option for most Americans. (Sorry your basement doesn’t get cool enough for the fermentation process to hold.) Not to mention, fermentation is playing with bacteria, and if you get it wrong you can get extremely sick. So we are going to pickle our tea leaves instead.

Burmese Tea Leaf Salad – Which Tea to Use?

The best tea to use is a straight, non-flavored green tea. Figuring out which straight green to use has more to do with personal preference and your willingness to pick through the leaves to remove any stray stems. For this recipe we went with Sencha since it does not have any stems and the leave sizes vary widely due to the steaming process that makes Sencha. It is perfectly fine to select any other green and quite frankly you will be closer to the flavor profile using Vietnamese Green, but you will definitely need to inspect for stems and harder leaves that do not soften during the brewing process below.

Burmese Tea Leaf Salad – Pickling Tea Leaves

You will need a jar or container with a lid to store the tea leaves in while they pickle as well as a large strainer to pour the tea leaves into after they have steeped.

Ingredients

1/2 cup of green tea leaves
4 cups of water
1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar
3/4 cup of sesame oil, plus additional to cover the tea leaves if necessary
1/4 cup of roasted sesame oil
4 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon of minced ginger
1/8-1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flake

Green tea in a pyrex container for infusing bulk green tea.

Steeping green tea for Burmese Green Tea Salad.

Steps

Start by bringing 4 cups of water up to 185° F. You can bring the water to a boil, pour it out into another container away from the heat and wait about 5 minutes to for the temperature to drop to the desired range. Then put in the tea leaves and steep for 10 minutes. While this is going on, you can chop up the garlic and ginger. For ease of mixing, put the vinegar and both sesame oils into a mason jar and then put in the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes. Drain off the tea leaves. Unfortunately, the tea liquor brewed for 10 minutes will be bitter and not something you will want to drink. However, your plants can use it, so allow it to cool and water your plants with it. While the leaves are in the strainer rinse them with cool water so you can work with the leaves. Using your hands, pick through the tea leaves to ensure no stems and squeeze the tea leaves to remove excess water. Next, put the leaves into the jar and put the lid on the jar and shake  until all the leaves look coated in oil. At this point allow everything to settle to the bottom of the jar, you should be able to tell if there is enough liquid in the jar to cover the leaves. If not, top off with additional sesame oil. Then put the jar into the refrigerator and wait at least 2 days, but 5 is better.

We will conquer assembly of our Burmese Tea Leaf Salad in Part 2.

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