A Burmese delicacy with a kick

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Well established as a Far Eastern staple, tea graces

the tables of cultures throughout Asia. In Myanmar, once called Burma, tea is

the major component of the country's signature dish, and the tea leaves are

eaten, not brewed.

Lap pat dok, or Burmese tea salad, also features dried shrimp and fish

sauce, two other staples of Burmese cuisine.

"Tea salad is so unique to Burma it deserves to be acknowledged as a

Burmese delicacy. It is a dish much loved by the Burmese people and a personal

favorite of mine," said Susan Chan, author of "The Flavors of Burma"

(Hippocrene Books, 2003).

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Tea salad is made from pressed young and fresh tea leaves, assorted fried

peas, beans, peanuts, garlic, onions and sesame seeds. The tea salad is served

with dried shrimps, diced tomatoes, thinly sliced cabbage and fresh chilies.

Much of Burmese cuisine is an amalgam of cooking styles of Asian neighbors

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India, China and Thailand. As in those countries, rice is an essential part of

daily fare and it often is served with mild curries that have the spice

complexity of Indian varieties without the hot pepper.

Congee, a breakfast rice porridge popular in China is eaten in Burma as

well. Thai influences bring the flavor of lemongrass, fish sauce and coconut to

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dishes and the most popular bread is Indian-style naan, cooked in brick ovens

and served throughout ever-popular teahouses.

Soups and salads round out the Burmese diet and noodle soups are part of

the traditional fare during festivals and holy days, as they are in China as

well.

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"One of my favorite cold- weather soups is pepper and garlic fish soup with

vermicelli. The authentic taste of this soup comes from the amount of pepper

one dares to try," said Chan, the Burmese-born daughter of Chinese parents who

has lived in Australia since she was a teenager. "If your nose is not running

and you are not searching for tissues frantically, you have not really

experienced its real taste."

Salads often make use of the wide availability of seafood. All kinds of

fish and shellfish are popular in Burmese cooking, especially since eating

four-legged animals is frowned upon because of the country's Buddhist roots.

However, the influence of Chinese immigrants who consume pork has found its way

into Burmese cuisine, as well as locally hunted game, all of which are

generally salted and cured for later consumption.

King Prawn Salad

This recipe is adapted from Susan Chan's "Flavors of Burma" (Hippocrene).

1/2 pound king prawns (jumbo shrimps)

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 small Bermuda onion, finely sliced

1/2 cup finely sliced English cucumber

2 stems cilantro, finely chopped

1 teaspoon fish sauce (available in Asian markets)

2 to 3 fresh red chilies, finely chopped

Juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon chili powder (optional)

1. Devein shrimp and set aside. Add 2 tablespoons oil to a saute pan and

heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Add shrimp to the hot pan and quickly fry for 3 to 4

minutes, on high, or until they turn pink.

2. Cut cooked shrimp in half along the length of the body, and then

diagonally slice each half into thin pieces. Mix together shrimp, onion,

cucumber, cilantro, fish sauce, chilies and lemon juice. Toss well. Add chili

powder, if using. Serve plain or with white rice. Makes 4 servings.

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