Food news: Far East infusion
Pickled tea and a nut and bean mix are the new additions to the range of products from Bayin. The Irish company imports its products from Myanmar (formerly Burma), and the line already includes cold-pressed sesame and peanut oils, which are stocked in SuperValu stores and independent retailers (RRP €4.99). Both the tea and the nut and bean mix can be used to add extra flavour to meat and fish dishes, as well as to salads and stir-fries.
Bayin is the first European company to export food products from Myanmar to Europe and it took the young couple behind Bayin - John Jenkins and Katrina Crawford - two years to establish a trade route. They had to overcome the difficulties of doing business with a country that has only had sanctions lifted since 2012, after almost 50 years of being closed off from the rest of the world.
Pickled tea and the nut and bean mix are an everyday feature of the Myanmar dinner table but completely new to Ireland. In Myanmar culture, they are dishes offered to visitors as a welcome. The tea is pickled for over six months in bamboo, and the mix contains nuts, beans, garlic and seeds.
"Pickled tea leaf salad would be considered the national dish of Myanmar, and is called lahpet," explains Katrina. Lahpet is made with tomatoes, onion, chilli, a dash of fish sauce, peanut oil and lime juice, all mixed together. Katrina says that her favourite way to eat the pickled tea leaf is to mix it with garlic, coriander and lemon juice into a paste and use it to cover darnes of salmon, wrapping them in tin foil and popping them in a moderate oven for 20 minutes. The nut and bean mix is delicious over any salad, but particularly tomato salad, and great sprinkled over a noodle dish such as pad Thai.
John and Katrina first travelled to Myanmar on honeymoon in 2013. John's grandmother was Burmese and had never been able to return after leaving in the 1930s. She claimed to have been related to King Thibaw, the last king of Burma, who was exiled to India. Bayin is a social enterprise, and a percentage of the company's profits go back to disadvantaged schools in Myanmar. Last year, the couple took a stand at the BBC Good Food Show in Belfast to sell their oils but also for research to see if the general public liked the new products. "The reaction was amazing," says Katrina. "We had a queue of people at our tiny stall waiting to try them and coming back for more throughout the day. We only wished we had them on sale!"
Initially, the pickled tea and the nut and bean mix will be available through restaurants. See bayin.ie
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