Thursday, October 16, 2008

Home-Made Lei Cha

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Lei cha

To those who don't read but speak Chinese, lei cha (mandarin) sounds like 'thunder drink/tea' but it really means 'milled or ground drink/tea'. I think it's only in Nanyang (Malaysia and Singapore) this this mistake propagate because many Chinese here speak but not write the language.

It is to Pat of Bento Pet that I should thank for my discovery of lei cha. I first read about it on her blog, then a coffeeshop near my house started selling leicha and now once in a while, when I want something vegan, I'd have leicha. Leicha really refers to the green bowl of chlorophyllic 'soup' made from milled herbs such as mint, basil and at least 3 other plants. The cha is served with a bowl of rice topped with blanched veggies and nuts, almost like a vegan bibimbap. I read somewhere that long ago during hard times, the Hakka in China used whatever forage they could get and came up with this meal. To meat eaters, leicha can be the ultimate nightmare. I think it is an acquired food and you need to have an open mind and try it at least once.

In one of her recent posts, Pat showed a bowl of lei cha she'd made. Pat used ikan bilis (dried anchovies) to flavor her soup which would make the soup more palatable for most people because of the savory sweetness. I thought, yes, why not make lei cha at home? I hesistated in posting this, because lately I've been posting a few veg dishes and I suspect they don't go down well with most of you. But we had oxtail stew last night, 2 kgs of it between the three of us. All finished in one meal. So today is damage control day. Hub got home for lunch and said, "Lei cha? Home-made lei cha?!" The way he said it, it was as if I made cyanide soup. I know what I can do to drive him into another woman's arms (that'll be his mother, as usual). Wey refused to come down until 2 pm when he heard what was for lunch. I felt sorry for him (the guy's writing his final exams this week) and salvaged a tiny bowl of leftover oxtail stew sauce to dress his lei cha. For Hub, I added a salted egg and a piece of the precious salted fish I brought back from Hong Kong. I think the salted fish was the star of the meal. The skin was fluffy-crispy and the meat salty and delicious. Must get more salted fish next trip.

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My lei cha soup had only two herbs from my garden--basil and mint. I think authentic lei cha soup has about 5 herbs. Frankly, lei cha soup tastes like what it is--juice from green plants. But it's good for you, and as far as food goes, good for our body means bad for or tastebuds and vice versa.

If you ever want something light, this is it. Only thing is, I always feel hungry half an hour after eating lei cha. But I also feel very light and refreshed, so trust me, lei cha is good for you.

Lei Cha
2 kinds of greens*
french beans (I used angled beans bc I have them)
Chinese preserved white radish, soaked and minced
dried shrimps (use plenty; without this the lei cha tastes really bland), washed and minced
chopped garlic
semi-hard tofu (I sub this with fried soft tofu)
roasted peanuts, chopped
toasted sesame seeds

*I used chinese spinach and cabbage. I think sayur manis the better veg for this dish because it is sweet and has a stronger flavor that livens up the dish.

The Soup
mint, ground finely
basil, ground finely
water or chicken/ikan bilis stock

The Rice
Plain boiled brown rice

1. Blanch the greens separately and cut them finely. Do same with the beans.

2. Put a little bit of oil in a wok and fry the garlic and dried shrimps until fragrant. Add the preserved radish and fry under low heat for about 5 minutes. Taste and add some salt and suger if needed. Dish up. It is good to make this slightly saltier because salt is not added to the other veg. If you prefer to salt the water used to blanch the veg, then adjust the salt accordingly.

3. Boil the tofu for about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool. Cut into small pieces. You can either leave it plain or season it with sesame oil and a flavored light soy sauce like Maggi.

4. For the soup, heat up the stock and add the ground herbs. When soup begins to boil, take it off the heat and strain it into a bowl. Don't salt it. This is de-tox food remember.

5. When you've done all that:

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Assemble everything. Do cut your toppings finer than mine.

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Put some brown rice into a nice bowl (to make up for the food).

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Top the rice with the toppings. If you feel bad about it, serve a side dish like I did.

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Mix everything up and watch them eat (you have to eat some to be a good example). Once in a while, it won't kill them to not eat meat.

p.s. A reader (thanks!) has directed me to this recipe which seems more authentic than the lei cha in my regular leicha shop.

20 comments:

Lyrical Lemongrass said...

My 6-year-old nephew loves lei cha, so hey, if he can do it, so can all the adults. :-P I'd love to make this at home some day.

Denise ^ ChiCkyEGG said...

BE nice to my little Wey !!!!!!

Jeri said...

This looks exciting, have always wanted to try cooking it . You're one adventurous cook ! Thanks for the recipe ! :)

hongyi said...

*shudder*

meat is murder...tasty tasty murder ;)

hongyi said...

das sounds like a spammer ma

Precious Pea said...

How come your Lei Cha look so good?? With salted fish and salted egg somemore! I don't mind just the rice and condiments but i really couldn't swallow the soup. Maybe I had a terrible experience before, i can still remember the haunting taste. But i want yours!!

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

ll: tt's a really good boy. try doing it. if fact i say u throw a leicha party n see who ur real friends are..

denise: i am very. he's an even better boy now tt ming's not here.

jeri: u must be vegan. exciting? i may loose readership posting this kind of food..

yi:u will have to eat this if u rn't what u say u r when i see u tues morning, ur weight i.e

pp: no, no, i was afraid to post this bc it didn't look right. i think i really need to work on my knife skills. i cn't see u eating leicha lol!

hongyi said...

the colour of the soup looks like this gooey green dish that calvin's (frm calvin n hobbes) mum would prepare for him.

hongyi said...

btw i think i gained my weight back :((((((((((((((((((((

Frequent Reader said...

Hey... Still reading your posts. Love lei cha rice.. Actually its very popular in Taiwan since there's a major hakka population there.. But people grind together different nuts and seeds to make the soup.. Tried the lei cha near your place but couldn't really take the soup.. hahaha.. would want to try your recipe though.. I am a big big big veggie lover. hee.. thanks for the post.. Just staring at it makes me feel healthy... Too bad there's only bad caffeteria food available now..

Anonymous said...

My grandmother used to make Lei Cha. There is a special pot which have rough bottom to grate the fried peanut and fried chinese tea. There are 7 vegetable. My late grandma spoke a different kind of Hakka. This type of Hakka is found mainly in Johore and Sarawak.

Johnathan said...

Hi Teri, I was first introduced to Lei Cha upon knowing my wife. Her mom is a hakka and that of course makes my NIL's maternal family Hakka too. They lived in Negeri Sembilan and this is one of the place aparts from Sabah that most chinese populations are Hakka.

I remember my MIL and FIL always mentioned that my wife's ex-bf doesnt like it but was surprised that I actually liked Lei Cha... maybe due to my being a rubbish bin... whopps~ I think I offended many vegans... what I wanted to say is that I eat everything and I don't find Lei Cha vile.

The soup that my MIL made is different from yours and maybe you can take this as a reference. Instead of Mint+basil+stock, she would use ingredients that are totally vegans (She use to be a buddhist vegan but thank God we managed to extend the love of God to her. Now she's a Christian!) for the soup i.e. corriander, basil ("Jiu Chen Ta" or Nine level pagoda), tea leaves or tea, and grounded peanuts.

The soup was yummy with a lot of texture. It definitely gives plenty of fibres to get you going to the little room. I will try to get her to visit your blog (Yes, she's as savvy as you, mama teri) and maybe she will comment more with regards to food. Btw, coincidentally, her name is also Pat.

NEE said...

my reaction is absolutely like wey. shudder! but greg loves it! must learn soon before i drive him to another 'woman''s arms hehehe....but it is an acquired taste. glad you like it cause it is very healthy.

joshua k said...

Wow ! Nice... :)

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

yi: hmph! bet u were lying when u said u were 54 kg

frequent reader: somebody said "At 50 u'll have the body u deserve." so i think u'll have no problems.

anon: looks like lots of leicha lovers out there. good!

johnathan:tt's a good idea. any guy/gal or potential spouse of my kids will have to pass these food tests:1. durians 2. leicha 3. bittergourds :DD

well tell pat to give me the authentic recipe! based on the last three comments, nuts are essential to the leicha soup but at the shop where i have leicha, it's just green juice. n i like dustbin ppl (like my hub) provided they don't grow a big belly.

nee: i'm surprised u don't like leicha:(

joshua: hey very beautiful wedding pics! r u based in west?

lips said...

hi terry, first time posting my comments here. been eating lei cha or what we called lui cha since young and the soup make a HUGE difference. it's very tasty due to the nuts. i'm too lazy to do this at home myself cos of the heavy labour :)i googled a recipe for you that had nuts. looking forward to ur next review of lei cha!
http://www.theweekendchef.com.my/2005/08/22/hor-por-lui-cha/

Big Boys Oven said...

wow! you are so good, If were to make this I will defitely be messing up my kitchen turning it up side down, great rite! lol!

Anonymous said...

My mom use blender to blend all the basic ingredients for soup into a few batches and keep in the freezer, can consume it anytime. Very convenient.. No more heavy pounding noise and tiring of grinding.
We had lui cha at least twice a week, very good for our digestion system.

delia said...

i learn how to cook lei-cha from my husband's aunty. she's a vegetarian. my hubby is hakka so naturally i have to learn how to cook this dish as he can't always go back to his mother's place just to have this dish. now i only eat the lei-cha that i cook myself.

Anonymous said...

I love lei cha but dissapointed today had the lei cha in Bandar Puteri (Few lots from Public Bank). I am regular there but noticed recently they reduce the portion.

My son at 5years old even know how to comment "mummy..how come the egg + chai por" so small - the fried egg which is thin (like poppiah skin) and serve with RM8.00/plate and the diamension is even less than 4" ..my goodness... the lei char portion - i ordered big one can't even could filled up half of my stomach which i normally have the small one....

I wonder the cost of egg..and rice has increased .....or i am getting fat that the portion can't fill up my stomach..with my current size less than 45kg.....my goodness..

It will be my last time ....there...

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