Fermented Tea Leaf Garnish 4 Ways [Myanmar]

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Homework?? Yayyy! Nerd alert – I was honestly excited when Chef gave us all a bag of fermented tea leaves to take home and make something yummy out of for a tasting this upcoming Wednesday. Looking into the origin of the ingredient, fermented tea leaves are a commonly used ingredient called lahpet in Myanmar. Tasting it on its own, the leaf is quite bitter. In Myanmar, lahpet is traditionally used to make lahpet thoke, a tea leaf cabbage salad, or ahlu lahpet, a snack dish where the lahpet is served in the center of a tray surrounded by crunchier elements to be mixed with and eaten all together.

After brainstorming several ideas, the one that stuck was turning the fermented tea leaf into a crispy garnish that can go over a bowl of congee, silken tofu, or the like! Continue reading to discover the four ways I’ve flavored the garnish. My favorite so far is the Parmesan Tea Leaf Garnish! I’ll be needing to make a second batch of that one to take to the restaurant since the first is already almost all gone…

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Xi’an Beef & Chives Potstickers [China]

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Potstickers are dumplings that have been pan-fried on one side for the crispy bottoms and then steamed to ensure the filling and tops of the wrapper are cooked through. The origin story is that an imperial court chef in the Song dynasty accidentally left a batch of dumplings on the stove for a bit too long and burnt the bottoms of the batch. Without time to prepare a new batch, he brazenly served them bottom-side up, bringing attention to the burnt bottoms and claiming that the burning was intentional. Luckily, the crispy bottoms brought a difference in texture to the traditional dumpling and pleased the members of the court so much that potstickers were born.

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Budae Jjigae [Korea]

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Also known as “Army Base Stew,” budae jjigae is a mixing pot of ingredients from both the Korean and American pantry. This savory stew was invented in the 1950’s shortly after the Korean war and during a time of food scarcity. The surplus of processed meats (such as Spam) from the U.S. military bases were added to pots containing traditional Korean vegetables and seasonings to create a fortifying meal.

The dish has evolved in the past half-century, but the spirit of budae jjigae is very much alive with cooks from the home to the professional kitchen adding ingredients to the stew based on items that are readily available in their pantries. We love making this dish because it is low effort – just some basic knife work and a few minutes of stewing time before a delicious meal is ready!

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Ijeh [Palestine or Syria]

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The exact origins of ijeh is hard to pinpoint with some cookbook authors claiming the dish to be an egg fritter from Palestine while others are sourcing it as a dish similar to latkes and originally from Syria. If any of you can clarify or have additional insight into this dish, please share with us in the comments below as we would love to know more!

The recipe that caught our eye can be found posted here by Refinery29, but the original comes from the book Palestine on a Plate by Joudie Kalla. Her take on ijeh is in the form of “Fluffy Egg Fritters with Tomato Salsa” and it is an absolutely fresh and comforting way to start the morning. We’ve adapted the recipe slightly based on how we approached the dish and to accommodate the ingredients in our pantry (because we did not have both fresh AND dried mint) and modified the amounts used based off of the size of our produce (our tomatoes and onions were quite large because God bless America). As with any recipe, feel free to tinker with it by adding or taking away ingredients according to your taste preferences.

We’ve followed the suggested hierarchy of fresh herb amounts by using a large handful of parsley, a small bunch of chives and even less mint leaves, but really, include as much or as little of each as you like. To get through the prep work quickly, have a large mixing bowl out for the ijeh ingredients and a smaller mixing bowl out for the salsa ingredients so that you can do the knife work for both at the same time since they share several ingredients.

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