Hakka Lei Cha ( 擂茶 )

After submitting my first post on this topic on 10 October 2010, I have received some nice comments from readers and mostly Europeans who are keen and curious of the Chinese culture and cuisine, and there are those who are interested on Health issues. This recipe is indeed a very healthy and nutritious recipe . I realize that you could actually eat this everyday without being bored . I had it for lunch for almost a week . During this time, I felt light after every meal and dinner was always very light. I felt my digestive system has improved and I actually decide to make some changes to my diet and eating habits.

I am re-posting this to make some slight amendments and introduce Brown rice Vermicelli as a alternative to rice. Hoping to give readers more options to try and perhaps they may even come up with better suggestions or create this dish with a  twist.

Lei Cha ( 擂茶 )

Lei cha ( 擂茶 ) is a traditional Hakka tea-based gravy with a mix of tea leaves that are grounded or pounded together with various roasted nuts, seeds, and grains. The tea is drunk for breakfast or on cold winters as a tasty, nutritious and healthy restorative. Lei cha is very popular in Taiwan, Southern China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore  as well as in places where there is a huge community of Hakka people.

Hakka Lei Cha rice ( 擂茶飯 )

Lei Cha rice or also known as Thunder rice is a popular Vegetarian Dish. It is simple, healthy, low in calorie, fat, salt, high in fibre, vitamins, and an antioxidant dish. A dish consisting of a bowl of Lei Cha or Tea accompanied with a plate of steamed rice and assorted vegetables. Some people who are more health conscious would prefer to eat with brown rice.

My mother loves this traditional dish and had fond memories eating it when she was young. She grew up in an entirely small Hakka village part of Malaysia, which this community speaks only Hakka and nothing else. Although my grandmother was Cantonese but my grandfather was a very typical Hakka so my mum was brought up towards the Hakka manner.

Now, she misses most of the traditional Hakka dish which my grandmother used to cook. Lei cha rice is one of them. To her , the Lei Cha rice will never taste as authentic as before even though there are many of these different Lei cha rice vendors available. With modern household equipments like food processors, all ingredients can be well blended. While in the past, grinding the tea leaves, herbs and nuts are all done by hand in an earthen vessel and tree branch pestle. It is really a tedious process in order to grind all the ingredients finely. Despite all these hard work in preparing this dish, to the traditional Hakka women, this is trivial as compared to the significance in bringing bliss and joy to their family when enjoying a wonderful meal happily together. This is real comfort food!

The influence of Hakka cuisine is very strong in most Hakka community. Therefore, it is common for every household to know how make this Lei Cha Dish as some of them make it as their staple diet. Some even plant their own herbs in their garden. In fact, almost 10 or more herbs are used in the process. Even by drinking the tea itself can have various medicinal benefits; It can act as a form of herbal cooling tea (草药冷茶).As an antioxidant, it’s refreshing for the well-being of the body and mind.

As for those who have not tried this dish, this would have to be an acquired taste or it would taste very bland and herbal. To me, I find a similarity with the Presto sauce……yummy and tasty!  As for the beauty conscious ladies, this is an antidote for weight loss, detox, clear and healthy skin.

INGREDIENTS

Peanuts 150g

White sesame seeds200g

Oil 5tbs

Mint 40g

Basil 40g

Coriander 40g, finely chopped

Green tea leaves 20g

Oil 5tbs

Cloves garlic 4 nos. finely chopped

Shallots 2 nos. finely chopped

Salt1/2 tsp

Water 700 ml

METHOD

Stir-fry the peanuts in a pan without adding oil for about 20 minutes until they turn pale brown. Set aside.

Stir-fry the sesame seeds in a pan without adding oil for about 20 minutes until they turn golden. Set aside.

Use a hand held blender to blend mint, basil, coriander, and green tea leaves until a paste Place chopped garlic and shallots and stir-fry for two minutes, then add the herbal paste and 1/2 part water gradually. Fry till paste softens.

To the mixture, add toasted sesame seeds and 150g of roasted peanuts and blend on high speed for about 10 minutes until a smooth texture. If the constituency of mixture is too thick add more water and keep the heat on low and stir occasionally. Stop the heat when the gravy is hot and smooth, ready to be served.

RICE AND TOPPINGS Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

Rice 420 gm or 2 cups

Cloves garlic 2 nos finely chopped, divide into 2 portions

Red onions 1nos. finely chopped, divide into 2 portions

Oil 9tbs (3 portion)

Yellow tofu 1 no. diced

Dried shrimps 100 g finely chopped

French beans 200g

Kangkong, chopped

Bean sprouts 100 gm

Fried Ikan Bilis

Fried Peanuts 150 gm

Pine nuts 100 gm toasted

Eggs 2 Hard Boiled

Salt 2 tsp

Sugar 3 tsp.

METHOD

Cook the plain rice in a rice cooker. Keep warm.

Cut the firm yellow tofu into small cubes. Stir-fry in 3 tbs of oil, sprinkle a pinch of salt and ½ tsp sugar for about five minutes until golden brown.

Stir-fry the dried shrimps, chopped onions and garlic, with ½ tsp sugar in 3 tbs of oil for about five minutes until fragrant and add in the French beans and sprinkle a pinch of salt to keep beans green. Cut the beans about 3 cm in length.

Stir-fry a portion of chopped onions and garlic in 3 tbs of oil until fragrant, add chopped kangkong, 1/2 tsp of salt and stir-fry for another 3 mins. On high heat still keep the vegetable fresh green.

Stir-fry a portion of chopped onions and garlic in 3 tbs of oil until fragrant, add chopped bean sprouts, a pinch of salt and fry till bean sprouts still crisps looking.

Just before serving, place warm rice and vegetables and egg toppings in each bowl, after then pour over the hot Lei Cha gravy and garnish with the roasted peanuts, toasted pine nuts and fried ikan bilis.

Note: You can also substitute rice with Brown rice vermicelli. Simply just boil the Brown rice vermicelli with hot water. When cooked, drain the noodles and set aside. You could use the similar recipe for the lei cha and toppings for this serving.

Hakka Lei Cha with Brown Rice Vermicelli. ( 擂茶糙米粉 )



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