Jasmine Market & Deli serves tea with a difference

(Photo by Brett Callwood)

Here in the cultural melting pot that is Los Angeles, we’re fortunate in that we can find pretty much any type of food somewhere in the region. However, while there are apparently sushi and ramen joints in every strip mall, it’s tougher to find a great Burmese spot. Thankfully, we have the Jasmine Market & Deli in Culver City.

“Jasmine Market offers delicious, authentic Burmese food to Culver City and the Los Angeles area,” they say on their website. “Owing to its unique geographic position which has placed it in the center of several historic trade routes, Burmese cuisine is a wonderfully eclectic mix of tastes and ingredients, with notes of India, China, Tibet, Thailand, and the Philippines present throughout our menu. You’ll find some familiar items and some new ones, but we’re sure you’ll love anything you try. Stop by today and let our friendly staff take care of you!”

The staff really do that too. Before ordering, take a look around the market area. It’s a lot of fun to browse the items and try something completely new. There are similarities with, in particular, some of the Indian markets in the area, but there are differences too. Fortunately, the staff are more than willing to help if you have any questions.

But their prepared food is spectacular. We started with the Shrimp Tempura appetizer, and it was great although not really any different to tempura served elsewhere. The plump, long shrimp are battered to perfection – golden, without allowing the shrimp to go too chewy. The sweet dipping sauce contrasts perfectly with the greasy, crunchy coating. It’s tempura, but it’s excellent tempura.

Even better, though, was the Tea Leaf Salad. It’s a leftfield choice for those not particularly familiar with Burmese food, but it’s well worth the risk. Fermented tea leaves are served with roasted peanuts, crunchy beans, fried garlic, dried shrimp, sesame seeds and chopped tomato.

The fermented tea leaves have an unusual taste but not an unpleasant one. It’s very strong, pasty even, but on a salad it offers an accept not unlike goat’s cheese. It’s aromatic and, honestly, delicious. The other ingredients offer a balance of taste and texture. In particular, the roasted nuts and crunchy beans add some much-needed sturdiness to the dish, which the tart tomato freshens it up.

Sometimes it’s nice to take a risk when dining out – it’s how we discover new things. So take a swing.

Jasmine Market & Deli is located at 4135 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City 90230. Call 310-313-3767 or visit jasminemarketdeli.com.