In traditional Burmese cuisine, salads play an important role. Many of these traditional dishes are eaten as small snacks and can be easily assembled at home with readily available ingredients. By combining these ingredients – spicy, salty, and sour – Burmese salads are packed with exciting flavors and textures. There are many different types, but here are six of the most popular to whet your appetite.
Laphet Thoke (Tea Leaf Salad) - Tea leaves are seldom eaten anywhere in the world, but Burmese laphet thoke, a salad made from fermented tea leaves, is one of the iconic dishes of the country. The leaves are pickled until slightly fermented, then mixed with onions, garlic, tomatoes, cilantro, peanuts, roasted soybeans, or a number of other crunchy nuts or beans. The salad is dressed with a hint of lime juice and fish sauce to create a Burmese dish that’s both fresh and unusual, especially for western palates.
Gyin Thoke (Ginger Salad) - There are many different variations of gyin thoke, a Burmese ginger salad, but the main version includes slivers of pickled ginger, sliced cabbage, toasted lentils and broad beans, and roasted peanuts. All ingredients are tossed into a bowl, then seasoned with lemon juice, oil, fish sauce, and salt and pepper. It’s a brilliant Burmese dish with a variety of textures from the cabbage and the toasted lentils, and a kick of spice from the ginger.
Tofu Thoke (Tofu Salad) - The yellow tofu used in this Burmese salad looks a lot like a block of yellow cheese, but as soon as you see it being cut, you’ll know it’s not cheese by its jiggly texture. The yellow tofu is made with chickpea flour and originates in Burma’s Shan state. The tofu is cut into cubes, mixed with slices of lime leaves and shallots, then soy sauce, peanut oil, and a hint of vinegar.
Min Kwa Yuet Thoke (Pennywort Salad) - Another popular Burmese salad is made with pennywort leaves mixed with coriander, tomatoes, chilies, onions, and soybean paste. The salad is tossed by hand, which ensures that each pennywort leaf gets a good dousing of the nutty flavored soybean paste. On top of being delicious, min kwa yuet thoke is healthy as well.
Samuza Thoke (Somosa Salad) - Samosas are an Indian-influenced pocket of pastry dough filled with either minced meat and spices or vegetables and spices, wrapped into a triangle, and deep fried until golden brown. Samosas are excellent on their own, but what could be better than just a plain samosa? The answer is a samosa cut into bite sized pieces, decorated with fresh vegetables, and flavored with lime juice and spices. The result is a crispy and fresh salad that puts a unique twist on a well-known dish.
Karyanchintheet Thoke (Tomato Salad) - Northern Burma is famous for its production of tomatoes, and one of the local favorites is a green tomato salad. Choosing mature green tomatoes, they are first sliced into pieces, mixed with shallots, coriander, dry chili, fried garlic, roasted peanuts, and a touch of salt. The tomatoes have a mild but sweet flavor to them, and the garlic and chilies provide a burst of flavor.