Lui Cha Fon, Lei Cha Fan… whatever, but I’ll stick to my guns. It’s Lui Cha Fon for me as it was the word I first heard eons ago! It’s how the Kuching Ho Poh Hakka people called this dish …
You see we used to live next door to a Ho Poh Hakka family. The patriarch and matriarch, Mr and Mrs C had 14 children!
When Mrs C was carrying her 14th child, her eldest daughter was pregnant with her first-born son ~ in exactly the same year! A big family meant more mouths to feed…
I remembered Mrs C used to cook huge amounts of foods, simple but nutritious and on very tight budget.
Even with their frugal meals, the friendly matriarch would sometimes share a portion of her cooking with us. Although my Mum used to decline her offers, Mrs C always insisted. One of the most standout dishes was the odd and murky looking green soup with rice served with 7 components of fresh and preserved vegetables and roasted peanuts. She told my Mum that that was a Traditional Hakka dish. Luckily, my Mum loved trying new things and that was the best opportunity for her to try out a very typical Hakka dish.
One afternoon after school, Mum gave me a bowl of rice garnished with the “7 treasures” with another bowl of green soup at the side. Honestly speaking, the green soup looked revolting and tasted like muddy and bitter water. The rice with the 7-treasures were alright. The thing was, I had to pour the green soup in the bowl of rice and eat it like a soupy rice with vegetables.
My first spoonful was like … Yucks! Well I was only 14 then and that was my honest feedback. Sorry, Mrs C ..
It was not the first time Mrs C shared that dish with us. After several tries, my teen-aged palate grew to like the soupy green tea rice.
I’m glad my Mum learnt the technique of making Lui Cha from the ever-smiling Mrs C. She did make a few times tweaking the dish with more flavours by including fried anchovies.
And believe you me, I have been craving for Lui Cha Fon – literally translated as pounded or crushed tea rice – ever since 😄
Yup, it’s sometimes called “thunder tea” rice, although I’m not particularly sure why. Could it be the sounds of the grinding of the tea, herbs, nuts and seeds from the special ceramic mortar? The pestle, by the way, is made from the wood of the guava tree. I don’t have these special Lui Cha pestle and mortar, hence, improvisation is key.
I resorted to using my electric hand mixer, instead, however, the biggest challenge was to find the right vegetables, which are usually chai sim, long beans, mani chai, 4-angled beans, kai lan and chai por.
My version as follows inspired by Mrs C and my Mum’s addition of the extra umami flavour.
Note my ingredients were purely guesstimated, for 4 portions.
Pounded ingredients (Note I ground these ingredients with my electric hand mixer to form a thick paste or pesto-like consistency)
- Loose-leaf Tung Ting Oolong tea
- Roasted peanuts
- White sesame seeds
- Pine nuts
- Flax seeds
- Roughly chopped mint
- Roughly chopped basil
- Roughly torn coriander
- 1 clove garlic (not pictured)
- Fried anchovies (in lieu of salt)
My choice of 7-treasure ingredients (Note each component was stir-fried / roasted separately)
- French beans
- Pek chai
- Chai Por
- Fried anchovies
- Roasted peanuts
Assembling Lui Cha Fon
- Take 2 Tbsp of the pounded tea paste in a bowl. Pour boiling water. This is your tea soup base.
- In another bowl, scoop a portion of cooked rice. Garnish with the 7 cooked veg – fresh and preserved and the roasted peanuts and fried anchovies
- Ready to eat! Note how you want to eat is up to you, ie, by eating the rice and soup separately OR pouring the tea soup into the rice. I ate how I was first being introduced to this dish ~ the latter, of course *big smile*
It was hard work washing, peeling, cutting, chopping and cooking the vegetables separately. I understand now why this dish was originally served during the Chinese Lunar New Year by the Hakka clan when all the ladies would assemble together in the kitchen helping with the tedious kitchen preps. Unfortunately, I was alone in my kitchen, hence, I made the 4 portions for myself ~ Day 1’s lunch and dinner and Day 2’s lunch and dinner. LOL! I started my prep work at 11am and the final dish was ready by 1.30pm (including taking photographs… Ha ha…). Note I purposely made this dish for myself because I foresaw my 3 carnivores would complain if I were to serve the dish as their main course. I was extremely pleased with the result, seeing that it was the first time I had a go in making the infamous Lui Cha Fon from scratch ~ finally! Yay! I was doubly contented with the taste. It was so closed to the best Lui Cha Fons I had in Kuching. The slightly bitter, herbal and minty taste of the green tea soup was spot on for me. No salt, please as the salty anchovies made a world of difference in the tea soup. The umami flavour was a double oomph! The chai por (preserved dried radish) and extra garnishing of the fried anchovies made great natural enhancers. It’s an absolutely LOVELY dish. I wish I could eat it everyday but the only stumbling block were the tedious preps 😦
I have used loose-leaf Oolong Tea in this recipe. For this, I’m linking this post at Little Thumbs Up (July 2015 theme: TEA) organised by Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and Doreen of my little favourite DIY, and hosted by Cheryl of Baking Taitai.
Have a Great Week!