Hakka Lei Cha – Central Chinese Green Tea Soup
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Tea isn't just good for drinking but can also be a versatile cooking ingredient. Soups are particularly healthy, tasty and easy to make with tea. In fact, we have a recipe for Chicken Noodle Soup with Dragonwell Tea in our Cooking with Tea section. Here is another type of tea-based soup, popular within the Hakka community in Southeast Asia. The Hakka people or the Hakka Han migrated from the Yellow River area in central China to Southeast Asia over the last century. They brought with them strong cultural practices which have been relatively well preserved, such as their distinctive culinary expertise.
What is Lei Cha?? Lei Cha literally translates to “pounded” or “crushed” tea. It is believed that Lei Cha was derived from a soup called the “Three-Raw-Ingredients Soup” consisting of tea leaves, crushed fresh ginger and rice. This soup was consumed by Hakka soldiers for rejuvenation and was brought down to Southeast Asia. The modern day Lei Cha came into existence by further enriching the original “Three-Raw-Ingredients Soup” recipe.
Lei Cha, as it is known and enjoyed today, is commonly made from oolong tea, various roasted nuts and seeds, mung beans and crushed puffed rice. It is commonly enjoyed with an array of side dishes made from leek, long beans, kale, string beans, cabbage, dried radish and aduki beans. The combination of these side dishes and Lei Cha make for an incredibly delicious and nutrition-packed meal.
1 oz loose leaf oolong tea (such as Organic Wu Yi Oolong Tea or Shui Xian Oolong Tea)
16 oz (1 lb) peanuts
7 oz sesame seeds
2 Tbs of finely chopped mint
4 Tbs of finely chopped basil
4 Tbs of finely chopped coriander
?2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp of salt
Peanuts for garnish
Puffed rice for garnish
1) Roast the peanuts by frying them in a pan without oil for 10-20 minutes until they turn pale brown. Set aside.
2) Do the same with the sesame seeds until they turn golden. Set aside.
3) Heat some oil in a pan and stir fry the mint, basil, coriander, garlic and salt for 2 minutes. If you have a pestle and mortar grind this mixture with the tea until it becomes a smooth paste. If you don’t have a pestle and mortar, use a blender to grind the mixture with the tea. Add the sesame seeds and the roasted peanuts and grind/blend further. If needed, add small amounts of water accordingly.
4) Pour this mixture into a larger bowl and add 17 cups of boiling water while stirring.
5) Serve with cooked rice and top with peanuts and puffed rice.
There are many variations of Lei Cha out there today. Some popular variations include shrimp, pumpkin and lotus seeds or lentils in their soup. Feel free to switch things up with this simple recipe and be sure to let us know how it goes!
Recipe by: Arbor Teas