The first time I came across this salad was actually at Burma Superstar in San Francisco in 2010. It was an instant love. A crunchy salad with lots of nuts and seeds is right up my ally. I’m a huge fan of textures, and this salad certainly has a toothsome chew. It’s healthy, full of good fats, and thus substantial.
This Burmese Tea Leaf Salad was one of the first dishes to come to mind when I was brainstorming recipes using Pure Leaf teas. The original recipe called for the organic dried tea leaves steeped in water, but I decided to replace a bit of the water for the Pure Leaf Green Tea with Honey. It was the crowd favourite at EAT! Vancouver, so I wanted to showcase how to use it in a savoury dish.
It is challenging using a sweetened drink in recipes, but the sugar isn’t high in this drink and I actually wanted the sweetness. The salad is savoury, fragrant, a bit tangy, and nutty, but I wanted sweetness to balance it out. In addition, I also added a ginger syrup which is not traditional of Burmese tea leaf salads, but it tasted great with it!
The idea for the ginger syrup was random. I was eating a chilled tofu custard with ginger syrup and I decided to try a bit of the syrup drizzled on top of the salad. I was imagining Thai food (sweet, salty, sour, spicy) and I wanted to get all those flavour profiles in this salad. I’m pleased to say it worked!
Burmese Tea Leaf Salad Recipe
Photos and recipe testing by: Brenda
- 50g (1 cup) organic dried green tea leaves
- 4 cups hot water
- 4 cups warm water
- 1/2 cup unsweetened Pure Leaf iced tea
- 1/2 cup Pure Leaf Honey Green Tea
- 25g (1 cup) kale, finely chopped
- 10g (½ cup) loosely packed cilantro, finely chopped
- 20g (½ cup) finely sliced green onion tops
- 5g (1 Tbsp) finely chopped garlic
- 10g (1 ½ Tbsp) very finely chopped or grated ginger
- 6 (1) green chili, very finely minced (or more to taste)
- 45g (3 Tbsp or from 1) lime juice
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 45g (3 Tbsp) vegetable or olive oil
- 10g (¼ cup) finely sliced green onion bottoms
- 17g (2 Tbsp) toasted sesame seeds
- 25g (3 Tbsp) roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
- 18g (3 Tbsp) roasted soybeans
- 26g (3 Tbsp) roasted pumpkin seeds
- 15g (3 Tbsp) dried shrimp, soaked in water for 10 minutes and drained
- 20g (1 Tbsp) ginger syrup or honey
- 20g (1 ½ Tbsp) Fish sauce
- 15g (1 Tbsp) lime juice
- 3-4 additional lime wedges
Notes for success
- The tea leaves can be soaked ahead of time, up to 1 day before assembling the salad. The longer soak helps to remove the strongest and bitter flavours of the tea.
- After the tea leaves are soaked, the Salad should be assembled 2 days before serving as it takes time for the ingredients to cure and ferment.
- The Toppings and Dressing can be prepared ahead of time, and then very quickly tossed with the salad when it comes time to serve.
- Ginger syrup can be made by simmering equal weights of water, sugar and sliced ginger together. It makes a nice sweetener for tea or cocktails.
- Place the dried tea leaves into a large mixing bowl. Add the hot water, give the tea leaves a stir and allow them to soak for 10 minutes. While the tea leaves are in the hot water, use chopsticks or small tongs to pick out the tough stems that float to the top.
2. Drain the tea leaves well, add 2 cups of warm water, and use your hand to squeeze the tea leaves for several minutes. Discard any leaves with tough stems. Repeat once more with the remaining 2 cups of warm water.
3. Drain the tea leaves well and squeeze out any extra liquid. Add the iced tea and honey green tea to the bowl and let the tea leaves soak for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
4. Drain the tea leaves well and squeeze the leaves thoroughly with your hands to remove any excess water. Mix the tea leaves together with the kale, cilantro, greens onions, garlic, ginger, chili, lime juice and salt. Cover the bowl and allow the salad to ferment for two days, preferably in a dark cool space. After two days, the salad can be refrigerated until ready to serve.
- Heat the oil in a small pot over medium heat. Add the sliced green onion bottoms and shallow fry for several minutes, until they turn light brown.
- Remove the onions from the onion, drain them on paper towel, and sprinkle with a small pinch of salt.
- Have all of the other topping ingredients ready.
- Whisk the ginger syrup or honey together with the fish sauce and lime juice.
- Add the dressing to the salad and mix well to combine. Taste and add additional salt or lime juice if needed.
- Serve the salad family style on a large plate. Arrange the toppings and extra lime slices around the salad.