Thunder Tea Recipe
By Sheere Ng - Wednesday, Jun 12, 2013
Lei Cha is a Hakka dish comprising ingredients such as basil, koo lek sim (a bitter herb), mint, sesame, green tea and peanuts. It is literally translated as Thunder Tea Rice, because the Hakka word “lei” means “grind” or “ground”, and is homonym for “thunder”.
Originally from northern China, the Hakka people migrated several times to the south due to social unrest and foreign invasions. They were referred to as the ‘Guest People’, or Ke Jia in Mandarin, as they were considered “guests” in the provinces they settled in. Their migration to Singapore in the early 19th century was a continuation of their southwards movement.
As newcomers, they were subject to hostility from the local majority and had to establish their community on less fertile land. It is under such poor living conditions that brought about Hakka’s outwardly simple cuisine. Lei Cha, for example, uses ingredients that were both cheap and widely available, and it was loved for its ability to quench thirst and fill stomachs. Its flavour however, is sometimes likened to the taste of soap by the uninitiated.
Today, Lei Cha is celebrated as a health food, as it contains ingredients like mint and basil, which were traditionally used to treat ailments. Accompanied with rice and an assortment of stir-fried vegetables, Lei Cha is also said to have a detoxification effect!
Here’ a Lei Cha recipe. Serve it with steamed rice and vegetables like leek, long beans, cabbage, daun cekur manis and chye poh. Simply stir-fry them with minced garlic and salt.
Recipe (Serves 6)
40g of Green tea leaves (Tie Guan Yin or Long Jin works too)
100g of Peanuts (smaller ones yield better flavor)
15g of Basil leaves
25g of White sesame
5g Koo Lek Sim
10g of Mint leaves
½ tsp of salt
1 tbsp of cooking oil
1. Stir-fry the white sesame in a wok over low heat until some of the seeds begin to turn golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the wok and set aside.
2. Add cooking oil into the same wok and turn up the heat to medium flame.
3. Add the peanuts and stir-fry for 10 to 15 minutes.
4. Remove the peanuts and leave them to cool. Remove the kernel.
5. Put the sesame, peanuts, and leaves into the earthen bowl to grind. Add some water to lubricate the mixture. The final product should look like a paste. You can also use a blender for this step.
6. To serve, scoop 2 tbsp of paste into a bowl and add hot water and salt according to your liking.