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!
- 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)
- For the Tea Leaves
- Sort thru leaves and pick out any twigs or other unsavory bits.
- Steep tea in hot water (not boiling) for 10 minutes.
- Drain and rinse.
- Soak tea leaves in cold water for 1 hour, then drain and rinse again.
- Squeeze out any excess liquid.
- 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.
- 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.
- For the Salad
- 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.
- 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.
- Place small piles of all the remaining ingredients on top of the lettuce.
- I like a lot of crunchy, savory bits like roasted peanuts, sesame seeds, and moong dal (or you can fry yellow split peas).
- 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.
- Squeeze lemon over the salad and toss tableside for guests.
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