In the olden times in Myanmar, the community would discuss social matters like marriages, donations, etc, over tea and pickled tea-leaf salad at the bench just outside homes. The plaintiff and the defendant would have tea-leaf salad as an act of accepting the verdict of the court. In traditions, a bag of tea leaves can also serve as a wedding invitation.
Here, tea-leaf salad can be a side dish or main depending on the number of assortments. It can also be added to the meat and fish to enhance the flavours and boost nutritional values.
House of Tea is a peculiar place downtown. Although it opened just three weeks ago, the small eatery has already garnered attention on social media among locals and foreigners alike. Perhaps its ubiquitous use of tea in all of its dishes attracts curious diners all over Yangon.
Behind this culinary concept is Aung Soe Min, the acclaimed owner/curator of Pansodan Gallery. He was born in Kyaukpadaung in upper Myanmar, where the ancient traditions and rural cultures can still be observed broadly to this day.
His first step into the F&B industry, Pansodan Scene Art Café, combines arts with traditional food and coffee. You can find a similar idea in House of Tea. There are benches with mats outside the restaurant in the fashion of a village home. You can also sit on the small chairs and tables inside.
“I always felt Myanmar people think art is for a certain class of individuals. Commoners rarely visit galleries and exhibitions. I believe that everyone can enjoy art. So I decided to bring art closer to the people through my eateries,” he explains.
The menu of the restaurant reflects his purpose. Meals are priced around Ks 5,000 and drinks below Ks 1,500, appealing to people with different levels of budget.
If you want to taste the tea-leaf salad in its most original form, start with the salad set. We order two of the signature dishes fried fish and grilled mutton sets paired with tea-leaf salads and assortments like fried garlic, peanuts, sesame, etc. You can also have beef and chicken options. All are Ks 5,000.
Each set comes with tea-leaf salads in three flavours: original, spicy and sour. Adding the citric taste to the tea is risky since most people cannot tolerate it. The trick here is the starfruit as it is milder than the lemon.
“I had to think of various methods to meet different tastes. By adding the starfruit cutlets into the tea, it reduces the bitterness and makes it more savoury,” says Aung Soe Min.
The fried tilapia has natural sweetness without the help of MSG. The chef applies peanut oil to the grilled mutton before eating. The mutton is crunchy and goes well with spicy tea leaves. If you like big lunches, order turmeric fried rice. Another way to enjoy the salad is to pack the meat, tea leaves, mints and preferred assortments in the lettuce.
After the meal, observe the paintings with a cup of tea. Or, grab a book from the nearest shelf since the restaurant shares the room with the antique book store, Myanmar Matika. If you are tired of fine diners and want to discover a simple and unpretentious food culture, House of Tea is a place to be.
Address: 37th Street (middle block), closer to the Maha Bandula Road, Kyauktada Tsp, Yangon
Phone: 09 513 0846
Hours: 9 am to 6 pm