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Hakka Lei Cha, a representative of Hakka culinary culture

Updated: 12 Oct 2010
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Hakka Lei Cha or Hakka ground tea
 
The First Impression

"Yucks! Are you sure that thing is edible?" That was my first reaction.

I was initially taken aback by the dish's greenish look (especially the accompanying soup a.k.a. herbal tea). 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 and the herbal tea together. Weird isn't it? 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 (客家擂茶). 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 and very healthy.

The Origin

Lei Cha dated back during the Song Dynasty in mainland China. Literally Lei means grinding with pestle and mortar and 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, ginger and rice. Throughout times, it has been accustomed with the changing cultures of Hakka immigrants in different countries. Thus, there are different ingredients and methods of preparation used in preparing Lei Cha. It is said that Lei Cha remains one of the staple food of Hakka and is served in wedding, festivals and serving guest.

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 continue their mission. Thus, the 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. There are different combinations of ingredients to prepare Lei Cha where additional medicinal herbs can be included to have different healing properties.

Hakka Lei Cha Ingredients

Generally, Hakka Lei Cha has three main ingredients: steamed white rice, cooked vegetables (often green bean, celery, dried radish, peanut, and black-eyed peas) and tea-soup; made by grinding green tea and mint.This food is not only sold by Hakka, but also by Chinese of different dialects as well.

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