Saturday, 30 August 2008

Hakka Lei-Cha

(From Y3K Recipes Issue No.9 – Nov/ Dec 2002)
Copyright of Y Three K Publisher. All rights reserved.

Ho Po Lei-Cha Odyssey, Appetizing and healthy treat!
By Catherine Chia

Some things will always remain a favourite. We exchanged reminsces of our first encounter with Lei-cha some twenty years ago. It was in a coffeeshop, Kulai, Johor. This was love at first taste. Lei-cha is a complete meal of garlic rice, fried vegetables and a ground savoury tea soup. We chanced upon this rice meal again at Kelapa Sawit, Johor, where there is a high community of Ho Po Hakkas. This clan is actually a sub-group within Hakka people.

Before our migration to Kuala Lumpur in the late eighties, we befriended a Mr.Luei, another kindred lover of this meal. As the preparation was laborious and tediuos, it was only wise to make it into some form of a social event. Very often, we held gatherings with 20-50 people. Mr.Luei normally organized all the menfolk to grind the herbal leaves, peanuts, sesame seeds and tea leaves into a powder form. This task can take an hour to two depending on the quantity of the ingredients used. The grinding and pounding process was done in a special earthern pot with grooves cut very closely together. A wooden pestle shaped from the guava tree trunk worked hand-in-hand to facilitate the job. Womenfolk attended to the rest of the chores.

These recent years, we noticed a lot of eating outlets have started selling this homely dish. It even attained restaurant status. But after several different samplings, we prefer this stall’s lei-cha, operated by Madam Ngai Mooi Lan. She is a true-blue Ho Po Hakka, a resident of Ampang village. During her young days, she was assigned the daily task of preparing this meal for her family’s lunch. Whenever she visits her relatives in Kulai, they again will ask her to prepare it for them to savour. Realizing the potential of churning it into a little business venture, this enterprising lady started selling the traditional food. It attracted many regular customers but due to several unfortunate circumstances, she shifted her stall to different areas several times. This is what the Chinese saying goes, "Catastrophes follow one another". She now has attained a good location and her loyal customers always make a beeline there.

If you happen to be in this part of town, do seek her out for her food. But a word of advice to first-timers, the meal needs an acquired taste. Do not be put off by the herbal taste or the bland vegetables. It is a perfectly healthy respite from the normal heavy meals.

Note: If you wish to purchase the grinding pot and wooden pestle but you have no Ho Po Hakka friends, try and make enquiries at their associations. There is a large community of them in towns like Ipoh, Malim Nawar, Malacca, Johor Bahru, Kulai, Miri, Kuching etc...

Enquiries can be made per courtesy of the Kuala Lumpur Ho Po Association.
Tel :03-2148 1408 Fax :03-2142 2649

Lei-Cha Rice/ Savoury Tea Rice
( Approx. 20 servings)

Peanuts, peanut paste and local basil paste.

(1) Vegetable condiments:
1 kg peanuts
8 pieces hard taukwa (cut into firm, flat beancurd small pieces)
600g dried shrimps (soaked)
2 packets preserved turnips/chai poh (diced)
1 kg long beans (diced)
1 kg leeks (diced)
1 kg shu-zai-choy (leaves portion)
1kg choy-sum (diced)
1 kg gai-lan (diced)

Salt to taste

1. Fry peanuts in an oiless wok. Add in some salt and keep on stirring till it is fragrant. Cool and shell skins.
2. Heat up a little oil. Fry taukwa till slightly burnt yellow.
3. Heat up 4 tbsps oil. Sauté dried shrimps till fragrant. Set aside.
4. Heat up some oil. Add in some sauté dried shrimps. Add in pickled turnips. Fry till fragrant.
5. Fry vegetables variety by variety with some hot oil and sauté dried shrimps. Add salt to taste.
(2) Lei-Cha Soup
Ingredient A:
500g local basil leaves
Ku-La-Xin leaves (optional)
Polygonum leaves (optional)

Ingredient B:
1 kg peanuts
200g sesame seeds (fried till fragrant)
1 packet Chinese tea leaves (25g) -see tips
Salt to taste

1. Fry peanuts in an oiless wok. Add in some salt and keep stirring till it is fragrant. Cool and shell skins.
2. Fry ingredient A with a little oil till fragrant. Add in a little water and blend.
3. Put ingredient B into a lei-cha grinding pot. Add in some water and grind it into a paste. You may use a blender instead.
4. Bring 10 litres of water to a boil. Add in ingredient B and bring to a boil again. Add in a few spoons of ingredient A.
5. When (4) is boiling, scoop out the residues with a sieve. Keep it simmering over a low heat.
6. Scoop 2 tbsp of ingredient A into a large bowl, pour (5) over it before serving.

(3) Garlic Rice
2kg fragrant rice
10 pips garlic (leave skins on)
1/2 tbsp salt
3 tbsps oil

1. Wash rice.
2. Heat up oil. Sauté garlic. Add in rice and salt. Stir-fry for a little while.
3. Add in water. Transfer into a rice cooker to cook.

To serve:
1. In a large bowl, add in some garlic rice.
2. Top with 1-2 tbsps each variety of fried vegetables.
3. Pour boiling lei-cha soup over rice and vegetables.

1. Lei-cha is a cuisine to Ho Po Hakka and another group of Hakka, known as Hai Loke Foong. The other name for this dish is savoury tea rice.
2. You can use any good grade tea leaves like Ti-Kuan Yin, Shui Shin, Oolong etc...
3. Local basil leaves is the main herbal plant for the soup base. It can be grown easily through seeds or even a cutting. The leaves are nice for egg omelettes or soup.
4. Ku-chi-xin leaves are fragrant but has a bitter taste.
5. Polygonum leaves/ Daun kesum can be rather strong. Do not put in too much as it can overpower the basil’s fragrance.
6. You can cook this rice using an electric rice cooker decked with a steamer plate on top.

(Laksa yip/ Lat liew yip) Polygonum leaves or Laksa leaves/ Daun kesum

Ku-La-Xin leaves

Basil leaves or Local basil leaves/ Selasih

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your recipe. This is my favorite lunch on weekends. It relieves the stomach from too much meat.