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.
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.
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
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.
mint, ground finely
basil, ground finely
water or chicken/ikan bilis stock
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:
Assemble everything. Do cut your toppings finer than mine.
Put some brown rice into a nice bowl (to make up for the food).
Top the rice with the toppings. If you feel bad about it, serve a side dish like I did.
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.