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Burmese Tea Leaf Salad and Grilled Shrimp

When I was diagnosed with celiac disease, the news delivered to me bluntly and unexpectedly – “You have celiac disease.  You can never again eat most of what you have enjoyed your whole life.  Have a nice day!” – I quickly fired off a bunch of foods/drinks that I love(d) and the thought of living without them made my eyes bug out.

Wine?  Fine said the doctor.  Phew.

Bourbon?  Fine, but do your research before deciding if you want to still drink it. (For the record, I did and I do.)

Tea?  Fine.

Tea leaf salad?  Yup.

I was beginning to feel the world stop spinning violently and that maybe I could survive this celiac thing.

I don’t know if you’ve heard of Burmese Tea Leaf Salad, but I’m lucky to live near a restaurant that serves a pretty famous version of this dish.  Apparently it was featured on Food Network.  Anyway, though many say it’s anything but a traditional version of REAL Burmese tea leaf salad, it is a flavor that once sampled will stay in your mind.  So, while it may have seemed a strange thing to throw out there after my earlier loves, it was one of the first thing that popped into my mind because, well, it’s kind of always on my mind.  I can’t really explain why it’s so good… it just is.

Basically, it is a salad composed of lettuce, jalapeños, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, tomatoes, lemon, fried split lentils (which I couldn’t find and won’t be in my salad… this time), and fermented tea leaves.

Though I searched high and low, I could not find fermented tea leaves available to purchase anywhere, so I turned to the trusty old interwebs to find out how to make my own.  Thankfully, someone has figured it out.

I followed her recipe with the exception of using tamari instead of the maggi seasoning and a mix of black & white sesame seeds.  Oh, and my jalapeño had molded, so no jalapño either.  It was missed.  I also did a quick salt & pepper grilled shrimp to make it more of a meal. Here’s my result:

Before:

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After tossing:

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The verdict?  Not quite as good as Burma Superstar, but I think with a little tweaking, I can get it there.  It needed the jalapeño, more salt, more acid, more garlic and fewer peanuts.  I also missed the lentils, but the sunflower seeds gave a nice similar crunch.

The “fermented” tea leaves were pretty good – more acidic and bitter than fermented flavor.  I doubled the batch so I could have it on hand for round 2 and I’m going to add some braggs amino acid to the jar to give it that umami earthiness.  I think that will do the trick.

All in all, if I can eat like this all the time this celiac disease thing won’t be so bad.

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