Jan 14, 201610:33 AM
Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene
We learn best by doing. Experience is the great teacher. You can read about how to do something 1000 times, but you’ll get more out of trying it once. Most of the things I do well, I do well because I have done them over and over. I suppose it’s debatable whether I actually do anything well, but I don’t think anyone who ate my food when I was in college would sample it now and say that I hadn’t at least improved.
I think the same is true of predictions. I don’t mean that the more predictions you make the better your record of accuracy. I mean that predictions based on experience are more likely to turn out well. For example, I predict that Barack Obama will win the United States presidential election in 2008. DID I JUST BLOW YOUR MIND?
Yeah. Here’s another one: I get better at clichés the more I use them.
So at this point I suppose I should admit that I had not planned to write a blog for today. I had, instead, planned to win the Powerball lottery and submit a photograph of my naked bottom in place of a blog. Some of you are no doubt thinking “how would I tell the difference between Haute Plates and a photograph of an ass?” Some of you are mean and/or know the beauty of my bottom.
Either way, my plans fell through and here we are.
It wasn’t enough for the kids behind the Filipino restaurant Milkfish to bring us the food of that Island nation for the first time; now they’re hosting a popup featuring the food of Burma (Myanmar for those of you born after around 1990). It’s called Lahpet, and it’s named for the fermented tea leaf salad usually identified as the national dish of Burma, Lahpet Thoke.
Coincidentally, I bought a Burmese cookbook about a year or so ago, and have been learning about and cooking the food ever since. A few dishes have become staples in my kitchen – I almost always have shallot and chile oils in small squeeze containers, and I’ve learned to appreciate fresh turmeric the way I formerly appreciated fresh ginger.
But I hadn’t really planned on trying to make Lahpet Thoke at home, since I don’t have access to fermented tea leaves and I wouldn’t have the faintest idea what the dish was supposed to taste like, either.
So I was pretty happy when I tasted the House tea salad at Lahpet. It’s very hard to describe what fermented tea leaves taste like, but I can tell you that “fermented” does not mean “tastes like kimchi or dirty socks.” It’s also not like eating the remains of a tea bag you’ve steeped for 10 minutes; there’s a texture that’s something like seaweed, and it’s less about the flavor of the tea leaves themselves than the multiple garnishes that are mixed into the salad. Nuts, fried beans, tomato and fried garlic. The traditional version is served with each ingredient in a separate little pile, but I’m not sure I see the advantage, because I doubt I could find a way to mix the elements into a more perfect bite than they do in the kitchen at Lahpet.
The menu is short; there’s a $10 lunch special that includes one of the salads (when I was there that included a green papaya salad as well), a couple of veggie samosas and a cup of “elephant ear” (taro) soup. The samosas were excellent. They had a crisp crust with a gingery filling and a good, spicy dipping sauce that reminded me of an Indian mint chutney. The soup had a light broth and a slightly sour flavor; not my favorite of the dishes, but my wife liked it very much.
Lahpet is open for lunch only, and only during the week, 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. As a popup, they can’t serve alcohol, but I believe you can bring your own, and if there’s a corkage fee, I’m not aware of it. You should probably call 267-4199 to ask about that, or to order takeout, if you prefer. Hell, do both if you want. Not like I can stop you, unless you’re my 3-year old daughter and probably not even then.
Milkfish (and thus Lahpet) is located at 125 N. Carrollton Ave. And speaking of Milkfish, it’s awesome as well. My hope is that Lahpet finds a customer base here and opens its own brick and mortar operation, and that both thrive. I’m greedy like that, I guess?