For the last decade or so, Clement Street's Burma Superstar has drawn the devoted, who wait for an hour or more, to dine at the cult favorite eatery. But in fact, the restaurant had been a quieter neighbor in the Richmond since 1992. Why the sudden fuss? It has something to do with that now-legendary tea leaf salad.
When Desmond Htunlin and his wife, Jocelyn Lee, took over the restaurant's ownership in 2001, the couple aimed to bring the place into the modern world. With backgrounds in finance (him) and design (her), the couple set out for success with a revamp of the restaurant’s interior (comfort and cleanliness over kitsch) as well as its menu, which would become more accessible to the western palate (read: a lighter hand with such strong flavors as fish sauce and dried shrimp).
But it was a tweak to the classic tea leaf salad that would create instant obsession among the restaurant's new regulars.
Called lahpet thoke in Burmese, the tea leaf salad is a dish fit for important occasions, such as weddings and religious ceremonies, but is also a popular stret food. Green tea leaves—fermented by a special process in which the leaves are soaked in water, densely packed in banana leaves, then buried underground to be aged—are the starring ingredient. Traditionally, the leaves are placed in a lacquered vessel with compartments containing fried garlic, roasted peanuts, sesame seeds, and chilies, amongst other goodies. Shredded cabbage typically makes up the “salad” component.
http://www.7x7.com/east-bay/secrets-bur ... leaf-salad
Discussion on Burmese history and culture.
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