Fermented Tea Leaf Salad Recipe

The most magical salad I ever ate was the Fermented Tea Leaf Salad at Burma Superstar in San Francisco. Tart and tangy green tea leaves are doused with fresh lemon juice, then tossed with savory bits of roasted peanuts, various seeds and legumes, chopped tomatoes, chills and fried garlic. If I had to eat a salad everyday for the rest of my life, it would be this unique combination of crunchy-sour-savory yum.

If you try the original dish, ask for the vegetarian version, as it’s normally made with shrimp paste. To replicate that flavor, I make a quickie vegan fish sauce, adapted from Rika’s recipe on Vegan Miam. I didn’t have light soy sauce (” light” refers to the color,  “lite” means low sodium and is not the same), so I just mixed Lee Kum Kee stir-fry sauce with pineapple juice.

*Be sure to use a tea that you enjoy the flavor of. Similar to wine, if you don’t enjoy drinking the tea, it won’t work well in this recipe.

What salad is so good that you would eat it for the rest of your life? Leave me a comment, I’d love to know!

Fermented Tea Leaf Salad Recipe
 
Prep time
Cook time
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Once upon a time, I was in San Francisco and had the fermented tea leaf salad at Burma Superstar. Tangy, tart and tasty! It was the best salad I've ever eaten.This dish is my vegan twist on those unique flavors.
Author:
Cuisine: Burmese
Serves: 2 servings
Ingredients
  • ½ cup loose green tea leaves
  • 2 lemons
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, divided
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1T fresh ginger
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 tsp galangal
  • 1T sesame oil
  • 3T peanut oil,divided
  • Pea shoots
  • 6 cups chopped romaine lettuce or cabbage
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Moong dal
  • Roasted peanuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Vegan fish sauce, optional (3T vegetarian oyster sauce+ 2T pineapple juice)
  • Salt
Instructions
  1. For the Tea Leaves
  2. Sort thru leaves and pick out any twigs or other unsavory bits.
  3. Steep tea in hot water (not boiling) for 10 minutes.
  4. Drain and rinse.
  5. Soak tea leaves in cold water for 1 hour, then drain and rinse again.
  6. Squeeze out any excess liquid.
  7. In a small food processor, add tea leaves, juice of 1 lemon, 3 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon chopped jalapeno, 1 tablespoon fresh ginger (use an additional 1 tablespoon if you don’t have galangal), 1 teaspoon galangal, and generous pinch of salt. Add 1T sesame oil and 1T peanut oil. Pulse until you have the consistency of pesto.
  8. Store in an airtight glass container at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for two days. Yes, you have to plan ahead to enjoy this salad. But it’s worth it, soooooo worth it. Once fermented, store leftover tea leaves in the refrigerator.
  9. For the Salad
  10. Chop lettuce or cabbage and place in an even layer on the bottom of a large plate. Add a large scoop of the fermented tea leaves to the center of the plate.
  11. Fry the garlic- In a small pan, heat 2T peanut oil and chopped garlic on medium heat. DO NOT preheat the oil. The garlic burns easily, so be careful with your technique. Remove the garlic from the pan just as it starts to turn golden brown and drain on a paper towel. If the garlic tastes bitter, it's burned.
  12. Place small piles of all the remaining ingredients on top of the lettuce.
  13. I like a lot of crunchy, savory bits like roasted peanuts, sesame seeds, and moong dal (or you can fry yellow split peas).
  14. Add chopped tomatoes, lemon wedges and a handful of pea shoots or micro greens. The finishing touch is fried garlic, it really tastes amazing on this dish.
  15. Squeeze lemon over the salad and toss tableside for guests.

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Comments:

  1. thawdar kyaw says:
    • My only concern with the prepared tea leaves from Myanmar is that most brands contain Auramine O, a known carcinogen.

  2. I’m so excited to try this recipe out, as I am also in love with Burma Superstar’s salad, but I just have one question. Where would one put the vegan fish sauce? I didn’t see it listed in the directions. Am I safe to assume it’s in the tea leaf mixture?

    • Aloha Justin! Yes,I added it to the tea leaf mixture since I enjoy a more pungent flavor. I will do add it to the directions now, thanks for the heads up that I left it out.

  3. I live about a mile away from Burma Superstar in Oakland (lucky me!) and I get the tea leaf salad…every. single. time. It really does make more sense to make this at home! Thanks for the recipe.

  4. Cobi – Thank you for the recipe I just had this salad on Saturday and been wanting to know how to make it at home. Any recommendation on where to buy and which type of loose tea leaves to use for this recipe?

    • Aloha Geri! I try and use what I have on hand before buying special ingredients, so I used some Darjeeling green tea. Look for organic varieties and I tend to prefer teas with some lemony notes for this recipe. The longer you can ferment the leaves, the better. Let me know how it turns out for you and I’d love to see a pic if you make it 🙂

  5. I’m excited to try this out! Any thoughts on how long the tea leaves will keep once fermented?

    • Aloha Dan, I kept mine in the fridge for about 3 months and they were so flavorful the last time I used them! I drizzled a little extra sesame/peanut oil on top of the leaves before sealing them in an airtight glass container.

  6. I just ate the tea leaf salad last night, and it needs to be a staple! thanks so much for the recipe I can’t wait to try it out…then once i get the samosa soup figured out I will be in business! Loved the video!

  7. OMG, I just had this At the B Bar.. was so amazing I had to research it.. TY so much.

    • Aloha Dawn, I’m not familiar with B Bar, where is it located? I just had a similar version at The Springs LA that was very spicy and the tea leave are not fermented. Love all the toppings and crunchy bits!

  8. where do u buy the tea leaves?

  9. Thank you so much for the recipe! I love Burma Superstar, B Star, and Burma Love. Although they might be skimping on the tea leaves at Burma Love… but now I get to make it at home. Do you cook the moong dal or add them raw?

    • Just watched the video and found the answer – raw! Thanks!

      • Let me know how the recipe works out for you 🙂 This is an “express” tea leaf fermentation process, so will taste a little different than the restaurant version.

  10. I know that by soaking and rinsing and squeezing the dried tea leaves, that is supposed to improve the flavor, but don’t you lose all the phenols and L-theanine that make tea healthy in the first place?

  11. Thanks for sharing the recipe! I was looking for the ingredient galangal, and I learned you can buy fresh, dried or powder. Which one did you use in your recipe? And did you use whole cloves of garlic, minced or chopped in the tea leaf? I can’t wait to make this!!

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