Tuesday, March 20, 2012

客家擂茶 ( Hakka Lei Cha )


First Impression
"Euww! Are u sure tat thing is edible?"

     Imagine a bowl of white rice covered with different cooked vegetables,together with a bowl of 'thick green herbal tea'. The food is served by mixing the rice, vegetables & the herbal tea together. Isn't it weird?!
After much hesitation I put all my heart and soul and gave it a try.. "God bless me!"
     Only then, after my first try, I found myself falling in love with the food- Hakka Lei Cha. How ironic indeed. The Hakka people are the Chinese of sub-ethnic branch of Han ethnic group. They originally migrated into Yue-speaking areas and have now mostly settled in Fujian, Guangxi and Jiangxi provinces (and of course other parts of the world due to the migration of Chinese from mainland China)
     There are some people who will not try Lei Cha again after their first tries or do not dare to try it at all.. Maybe it is due to its weird greenish look, However, do not judge a book by its cover or should I say do not judge food by its looks. Lei Cha is much more than just delicious. All in one, it is nutritious & very healthy.

The Origin
     Lei Cha  dated back during the Song Dynasty in mainland China. Literally Lei means grinding with pestle and mortar while Cha means tea. Thus Lei Cha is described as a ground tea. It is one of the most representing delicacies of Hakka's diverse culinary culture.
     It was originally prepared by grinding three raw ingredients- green tea (either Green tea or Oolong), ginger and rice. Throughout times, it has been accustomed with the changing cultures og Hakka immigrants in different countries. Thus, there are different ingredients and methods of preparation used in preparing Lei Cha. Is is said that Lei Cha remains one of the staple food of Hakka and is served in wedding, festivals and serving guest.

Generally, Lei Cha has three main ingredients; steamed white rice, served with variety of fried vegetables and tea-soup (made by grinding green tea & mint). No meat served at all. Lei Cha is totally vegetarian food.

The Tale
     According to ancient records, Zhang Fei from Shu Han was leading a troop to attack Wu Ling during the Three Kingdoms period (A.D 222-280) of China. His troops suffered from plaque and thus were unable to continue the invasion.
     An old herbalist was aware of Shu Han's strict discipline, in which Zhang Fei must conrinue their mission. Thus, herbalist offered his own family's herbal recipe, which was a mixture of food prepared by grinding green tea, ginger and rice. The cooked food was then given to the troop and they were eventually cured. Due to that, Lei Cha has thus become popular and has spread since then, throughout the country.

The Benefits
     According to Chinese physician, Lei Cha  is clinically proved to be anti-rheumatism, liver detoxifying, vision enhancing, tonic to stomach and lungs.The ingredient of Lei Cha derived from all natural plants, it has the helps to heal high blood pressure, reduce weight and improve ones complexion. Long term consumption of Lei Cha too, increases life longevity. It not only contains high fiber from vegetables that improves ones digestion system, but it also provides rich groups of vitamins.
     There are different combinations of ingredients to prepare Lei Cha where additional medicinal herbs can be included to have different healing properties. 

Bitter Herb ( 苦力心 )
Thai Basil ( 泰国 九层塔 )

Artemsia argyi  (艾叶 )

Sawtooth herb/Thorny coriander/Culantro ( 锯齿香草/莿香菜 )

Peppermint ( 薄荷叶 )

     Well, hope this introduction of Hakka Lei Cha will prompt u to give it a try (and those who have stayed away from it, no harm trying again). If u like brown rice, try the organic version of Lei Cha.

Bon appetite!!