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Tea Leaves

When comfort food is no longer a refuge

A Myanmar exile's struggles with food offer a metaphor for her country's trials

Yay-mont is a savory pancake made with rice flour and filled with tomatoes and spring onions. (Photo by Kelly Mcnamara)

Laphet thote, (pickled tea leaf salad) is a distinctively versatile dish that graces most dining tables in Myanmar. It can be a savory snack, a filling meal when paired with a bowl of fluffy white rice, or a palate-cleansing dessert taken with cups of freshly brewed Chinese tea.

It is also the first dish I learned to make when I left home, because there is practically no cooking involved. Just mix the pickled tea leaves -- they came in various types but I usually go for chin sat (sour spicy) -- with a kyaw -- crispy bits that include fried garlic, broad beans and yellow split peas, roasted peanuts and sesame seeds. A dash of oil, a splash of fish sauce, a squeeze of lime and lunch is ready.

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