Thunder tea, GO!

5 Nov

Lui cha (擂茶), which can be translated as “thunder” or “pounded tea,” is probably one of the few dishes you can order at a hawker stand without fear for your arteries/endocrine system/immortal soul. (OK, it might blow your sodium limit for the day.) It’s a bowl of rice topped with green vegetables, long beans (similar to green beans), tofu, pickled Chinese cabbage, beans, and roasted soy nuts; some versions include tiny dried fish for crunch and saltiness, but it’s optional. The “thunder tea” served on the side is a bowl of green tea blended (well, pounded) with all sorts of herbs so that it’s more of a savory tea soup. The broth is combined with the rice at the diner’s preference; some people like to pour the whole bowl in, while others dip the rice spoonful by spoonful in the tea.

The concept is similar to the Japanese dish, ochazuke, where green tea is poured over a bowl of rice with a savory topping, such as umeboshi (salted plum), salted salmon, or nori. (There’s even a line of dedicated ochazuke toppings, which are sprinkled on like furikake.) The difference is that ochazuke is usually consumed as a snack or a hangover cure, while the lui cha is more of a proper meal. Lui Cha is traditional to Hakka Chinese cuisine, which is probably why I hadn’t encountered it before moving to Malaysia, but those of you who’ve traveled to, say, Taiwan might be familiar with it. With all the veggies and legumes and refreshing tea soup, it’s a nice change from the usual protein- and carbohydrate-heavy hawker offerings.

I then proceeded to undo all of the health benefits of lui cha by ordering this:

I have no idea what this is called. I saw people at the neighboring table eating it, and pointed and said, “Bring me one of those.” It’s a block of tofu with seasoned ground pork on top, deep-fried; I added the chili sauce. To anyone who thinks that tofu is bland health food only suitable for joyless ascetics, I present the above as a definitive counterargument. And remember: if you see someone at another table get something that looks delicious, order it, because it probably is.

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One Response to “Thunder tea, GO!”

  1. Nate @ House of Annie November 15, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

    I love lui cha and have it often here in Kuching.

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