We were hoping this day would never come, but to be honest it was only a matter of time before the hipsters fully descended upon Myanmar food.
A ‘la phet thote’ recipe published in the Evening Standard this week has left Myanmar people on social media furious not only because of its Columbus-esque fetishization of Myanmar in general, but also because it absolutely desecrates the dish.
The introduction to the recipe starts out as your fairly standard exoticisation of Asian cultures — ‘a lot of hype about Burma at the moment,’ ‘we had never heard of anyone eating fermented tea before our visit to Burma,’ etc etc. You could almost skip it and go straight to the recipe, but you shouldn’t, because the second to last line is where it all goes horribly wrong, fast.
— Anna Sulan Masing (@AnnaSulan) May 11, 2017
The authors write: “The tea [referring to la phet] can be bought online and soon in delis throughout London, but if you can’t find it you can substitute kimchi or sauerkraut.” Repeat: “you can substitute kimchi or sauerkraut.” Imagine taking an apple pie recipe and substituting the apples with sausages or potatoes, and then trying to pass that off as your ‘own take’ on apple pie. Or substituting kimchi for sauerkraut and trying to pass that off as kimchi. You get the point. Maybe the authors were too busy partaking in the ‘hype’ to pay attention to what was put in their la phet thote, but substituting kimchi or sauerkraut for la phet is the kind of crime that should really have you barred from the country for life.
But wait, there’s more. You’d think that’d be the worst of it, but then you scroll down to the actual ‘recipe’ and continue reading in horror as ingredients such as honey, tofu, and cucumbers flash before your eyes. What fresh hipster hell is this, and what did la phet thote ever do to be sentenced there?
If that’s not enough, here’s a photo from the Instagram page of The Lost Tea Company — founded by the brother of one of the authors, and mentioned in the article — of a plate of what is supposedly la phet thote that contains (we kid you not) papaya, avocado, red pepper, and balsamic vinegar. Not to mention that they’ve hashtagged it with #exotic, #tradition, and #adventure.
But then again, that’s what you’d expect from a company that prides itself in ‘bringing Burmese organic Fermented Tea Salad and Green Tea to the streets of Yangon and London’; yes, they’re apparently ‘bringing’ la phet to Yangon. Maybe their Columbusing ‘lost tea’ should just remain lost forever.
Hey Evening Standard, here’s a thought — maybe next time, get a Myanmar chef to write up a Myanmar recipe. In the meantime, if any Londoners want to try real Myanmar cuisine, check out the Rangoon Sisters‘ Burmese supper clubs, Lahpet, Mandalay — which has been serving Myanmar food in London for two decades and is reopening near Kilburn soon — or literally any restaurant that doesn’t put papaya into their la phet thote.
As for this fetishized disaster of a recipe, this tweet by food writer and chef-who-actually-knows-what-she’s-doing MiMi Aye sums up the whole situation perfectly:
My reaction to all the hipster nonsense being propagated as Burmese food right now pic.twitter.com/mXYQzqZpzL
— MiMi Aye (@meemalee) May 11, 2017
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