While home in Hawaii in April, I had the opportunity to try the most wonderful tea leaf salad at the little gem of a restaurant, Dagon. I'm a huge fan of both tea and fermented foods but this was my first encounter with fermented tea leaves and it was pretty much everything I could have hoped for. Upon returning home, I took to the internet to learn more about the dish, discovering that it is a staple in Myanmar, often served either as a snack or at the end of a meal. I also learned that while freshly picked tea is traditionally used for fermenting, one can use dried tea for recreating the dish at home.
This salad is quite easy, though it does require some planning as the fermentation process takes 2 days. The flavors of Dagon's salad were excellent but for me, the very best thing about the salad was the abundance of crunchy things. For my version, I added even more crunchies and made a few seasonal/personal alterations, namely fried capers (!!!!), a momofuku hard boiled egg, radish, and carrots. (I somehow forgot to get peanuts so those didn't make it on the salad, but I'll add them next time!)
Lastly, one thing I did not take into account upon eating a large bowl of the salad for dinner is that the tea leaves are caffeinated. If you are sensitive to caffeine, I might recommend eating the salad for lunch and/or limiting your portions.
Fermented Green Tea Leaf Salad
For the fermented tea leaves
1 C green tea
4 Cloves garlic
1/4 cup green onions
3 Tblsp sesame seed oil
1 Tblsp peanut oil
For the salad
1/4 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
2.4 oz capers, fried
1/4 C split peas (cooked)
l1/4 C lentils (cooked)
handful grape tomatos, chopped
1 egg (hardboiled and marinated)
2 Tblsp pumpkin seeds
2 Tblsp sesame seeds
Soak tea leaves in hot water for about 10 minutes, removing any twigs that float to the surface. Drain the leaves and then soak in cold water for an hour (or as long as overnight), again removing any twigs and draining after an adequate soak. In food processor, blend the garlic and ginger. Next, blend in the jalapeno and green onions. Add the tea leaves, salt, sesame seed oil, and peas nut oil and blend again. Place in airtight glass jar (I used a mason jar) and store out of sunlight at room temperature (I left the jar in the cupboard) for 2 days.
Once the tea leaves have fermented, it's time to assemble the salad. Place chopped Romaine lettuce on a plate and set a dollop of fermented tea atop the lettuce in the very center of the plate. Cook lentils and split peas (in separate pots) al dente, drain, and set in piles at the edge of the plate. Fry the garlic and place in a pile; then, fry the capers and also place in a pile. Chop carrots, radish, tomato, and assemble in piles. Lastly, add sesame seed and pumpkin seed piles, the hardboiled egg, and lemon wedges.
Before serving, drizzle with sesame seed oil, squeeze the lemon wedges, add a dash of salt, and mix everything together!