I have been absent…yet again. Sorry for those who follow Day7Kitchen! Lately, my blog life has been a constant stream of apologies given my hectic travel schedule. Most recently though, I was away for a week on a road trip vacation in California with Mr. Y. So not much excuses there. Unashamedly, I am dedicating this post to a dish I had during vacation.
Anyone who has been to San Francisco would know that it’s one of the most densely concentrated cities in terms of number of foodies and Yelped restaurants. San Franciscans live and die by their food choices. As a result, some of the most heavily Yelped restaurants are in the Bay Area. Having been to one of these said legendary restaurants on a previous trip, I resolved to take the hubby to experience the amazement as well. The place is called Burma Superstar, on Clement Street. It’s a Burmese restaurant that is famous for their tea leaf salad. You might be wondering at this point, why in the world would anyone line up for hours for a salad. The magic ingredient that this salad includes is fermented tea leaves shipped straight from Burma. Ever heard of umami, the elusive fifth taste that all chefs around the world have been chasing after for the past decade? The fermented tea leaves have that- salty, savory, fragrant. Along with some other Indian fried lentils, the tea leaves take an ordinary salad to a whole new level of playing field.
When the waitress came to mix the salad for us at the table, she rambled off all the ingredients contained in the salad. Being a foodie, I asked her to repeat the list several times to make sure that I made a mental note on every ingredient, then after she left, quickly jotted everything down. At this point, Mr. Y is doing some major eye-rolling and muttering “nerd” under his breath. But hey, good foodies are always observant!
Halfway through the salad and “oooing” and “ahhing” over the tastiness of it all, I was thinking about how to recreate this in my own kitchen. How in the world do I get my hands on fermented tea leaves from Burma? Then Mr. Y threw an offhand comment, “this tea leaf taste just like Mei Cai”. Mei Cai is basically Chinese fermented vegetable that is often used to make pork belly and other meat dishes. It looks like bits of shredded and shriveled black vegetable that tastes savory and salty, and can powerfully flavor the entire dish of meat. The light bulb went off in my head, and I knew that I had a real chance of recreating this dish.
After a few trials, here is my successful replica of the tea leaf salad, except with Chinese fermented veggies. Now I can enjoy Burma Superstar in my own apartment. And so can you! Creativity rewarded!
Note: You could easily find Mei Cai (fermented vegetable) in little packets in any Asian mart.
Fermented Leaf Salad
- 1 large bag of romaine lettuce, chopped into bite size pieces
- 1 tomato, diced
- Indian fried lentils, 1/2 cup (You can find this at many Asian and Indian supermarkets in the snack section)
- a handful of roasted peanuts
- Mei Cai/ fermented Chinese vegetables, 2-3 Tbsp
- 1 jalapeno, seeds removed and sliced
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- sesame seeds to sprinkle on top
Assemble the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl: lettuce, tomato, lentils, jalapeno, peanuts.
Top the salad with Mei Cai and dressing: lemon juice, olive oil, sesame oil. No need to mix the dressing together ahead of time. Toss the salad to coat evenly with dressing. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Enjoy!