Apr 06, 2018
Behind the Dish: Piggy Smalls' Weekend At Burmese
There are certain dishes that force you to change everything you think you knew about food.
Maybe it was the first time you tasted umami (or at least realized what it was) or your first encounter with the perfect piece of toro or simply the pleasures of devouring a humble musubi on a hot Hawaiian afternoon. When the right flavors and sensations collide, magic happens. The Weekend at Burmese Salad (props for the naming) from Piggy Smalls kitchen is one of those dishes. As soon as we tasted this green papaya salad that marches to the beat of its own drum (after all, its star ingredient is a fermented tea dressing) we just had to learn more and rang up head chef Andrew Le to get the backstory behind this sensational salad.
So where did the inspiration for this dish come from?
This dish was actually inspired by the landlord of our Chinatown location (The Pig & The Lady) and friend Dr. Tin Myaing Thein (director of Pacific Gateway Center), who's from Burma. One day she was kind enough to share her fermented tea salad, lahpet thok, and demonstrated how to cook it with me. I was blown away by the various textures and intensity of flavor of the fermented tea dressing. After tasting it, I was motivated to develop our own version.
We love how well this salad combines flavor profiles. When it comes to taste, how would you describe it?
This dish is simply presented but complex in taste. It's savory from the fermented tea, spicy from the chili, sweet from the tomatoes, sour from the lime, and salty from the preserved lemons. Combine that with fried nuts and seeds for addicting texture and green papaya and clover sprouts for herbaceousness, we end up with a salad that hits every craving you could have at the moment.
In your eyes, what makes this dish so different than a traditional green papaya salad?
There are many styles of green papaya that come from various southeast Asian cuisines, but they typically tend to be simply dressed and bright in flavor. Our Burmese salad is fuller in flavor and has a ton of textures. It can be an accompaniment, but it's also great as an entree.
Let's talk about the dressing. It does such a great job of bringing all the flavors together. But just what goes into making the fermented lahpet dressing?
It's green tea that is fermented in brine then blended with sesame, garlic, chili, lemon, and fish sauce. We also make a vegan version of this dressing as well.
If you were to pair this dish with a cocktail at Piggy Smalls, what would you recommend?
Our Play with Fire cocktail would be awesome with this. The bourbon with peach, charred lemon, and fresh orange juice is a perfect pairing.
And lastly, if I were to compliment this salad with an entree, what should I order?
I would definitely get this with a dozen ice-cold oysters and our grilled fish with caramelized curry spices...or our pho French dip with clams. But really, this salad would be awesome with just about anything.
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