hakka lui cha 客家擂茶

Ren Ri 人日 or Man’s Day, falls on the 7th day of our Chinese Lunar calendar. Growing up in a hokkien family, we never celebrated this day as we prided our own Heavenly God’s Day which falls on the 9th . Competitive, yes the Chinese are very.

My kay el friends and colleagues, majority Cantonese, celebrate Ren Ri by tossing a Yee Sang which symbolises prosperity.

My earlier encounters with Lui Cha weren’t very impressive. Yearly, I would be invited by my cousin’s wife, a hakka who hosts a party to serve “ham cha” meaning “salted tea” or what I have now intimately got familiarised to, as “lui cha”. Never really liked it then. The broth made by her was not very agreeable to my palate. To remain a courteous guest and relative, most times I would just eat the assorted vegetables, rice and nuts tossed together.

My passion towards Lui Cha makes a turn after getting acquainted with the Hakka Chans.

Every Ren Ri, senior Mrs. Chan will be very busy prepping up a big Lui Cha party for the whole village and our clans’ folks. 7 large plates of lightly fried assorted greens, white steamed rice or puffy rice served with Lui Cha. Simple, healthy salad food to many but a good Hakka Chan’s Lui Cha lies in the making of this tea broth.

Although Lui Cha  擂茶; literally means “pounded tea”, it is not. Of course, today many can choose the blender. Anyway, Mom is traditional and romantic, she prefers to gruel ingredients inside a specially made ceramic pot with a guava branch. I have the honor to witness the “behind the scene” of the long gruelling process of making this much loved tea paste.

Simple as it may sound; it is truly laborious.

Mom is trimming the heart shaped ku-li-xin, leaf by leaf, avoiding the stems and thorns.

The complete ensemble of 5 herbal leaves when available, when unavailable, you can cut them to 2 or 3 with basil as a compulsory base.

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Wormwood, what a name!

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It took me the longest time to find a name to this herb. Look at the serrated edges, you can half guess it’s name; Sawtooth Coriander. This herb is rarely seen or sold in wet markets. Growing up, I have never encountered this plant till I stepped foot into Hakkachan. I have grown very fond of it’s pungent and spicy taste. Try julienne it into tiny strips and toss some light soya sauce as a condiment for steamed chicken or blanched pork belly. Heavenly.

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“Acanthopanax” is grown abundantly in mom’s garden. A small was given to me and I am ashamed to share that it hasn’t flourished well under my care. Anyway, after much research, this commonly known to our family as “ku-li-xin” or “bitter hearts” has palm shaped, ternate compound leaves and hook shaped thorns along its stem pointing downwards. Bitter in taste, this herb is ‘cooling’ and has detoxifying properties that dispel heat, damp and ‘wind’. Older folks use them to alleviate ‘heaty’ cough, rheumatoid arthritis.

 

RECIPE for LUI CHA PASTE 
Ingredients for Lui cha tea paste :  (serve 4-6 persons)
  • 2 cups   acanthopanax/ku li xin leaves
  • 1 cups   mint leaves
  • 2 cups   basil leaves
  • 1 cup     chainsaw leaves
  • 1 cup     wormwood leaves
  • 1 cup     roasted sesame
  • 1 cup     roasted peanut, crashed
  • 1/2 cup  chinese green or brown tea leaves
  • 1 cups  hot water
    (blend all ingredients into paste ~ like making pesto)

METHOD:-

1. Toast sesame seeds. Fry peanuts in a wok without oil. Keep stirring till it is fragrant. Cool and shell skins.

2. Put in the green herbs, batch by batch. Add in a little water and gruel

3. Put some peanuts and sesame (to individual’s liking) into the lei-cha grinding pot. Add in some water and grind it into a paste.

You may use a blender instead. Mom occasionally does it.

The paste has to be added with hot water, salt and additional freshly pounded toasted groundnuts and sesame seeds.

Or you can make a larger batch, store the paste into containers and freeze them for future use.

Guest Chef : Cucur Udang by Cik. Zarfilla

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Zarfilla is a mouthful name to pronounce. She is more affectionally known to Agnes, Nona Sofi and I as “follylittlehead” or just Filla. We met in Twitterjaya, and later on shared many “virtual” togetherness on Instagram. The virtual world has brought many people together, whether it is through our common interest in politics, cats, food etc.

Months ago, Agnes made Filla long beans pancake, a popular hakkachan childhood snack food. She promised to cook us her specialty dishes but chose to start from the appetizer or snack food. Follow her on Instagram, you will understand why we truly look forward to the day she will cook us her Masakan Melayu.

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Knowing she is shy, she prefers to share with us her mom’s “agar-agak” or literally means “about” or “more or less” or “estimate” hand-me-down recipe, Prawn Fritters or Cucur Udang. I really welcome a homemade Cucur Udang because those served outside are laden with “alkaline” or “bicarbonate soda” that purportedly to rise in volume but leaves a funny taste to your tastebud. The trick is, always use fresh ingredients to yield great taste, great flavor.

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INGREDIENTS for CUCUR UDANG (8 persons)

  • 500 grams soft shelled shrimps
  • 1 cup asian chive
  • 4 cups bean sprouts
  • 6 shallots
  • 500 grams wheat flour
  • 50 grams rice flour (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • salt
  • water
  • oil

METHOD:-

  1. Clean the shrimps and shell it completely or you can choose the leave the head and tail intact.
  2. Cut chives into 2 inches strips.
  3. Cut shallots into thin slices.
  4. Pick, clean and drain the bean sprouts.
  5. In a big deep bowl, put in shrimps, chives, shallots, bean sprouts, turmeric powder, salt, flour and water to make batter.
  6. If you like a little more crisp in the fritter, add some rice flour.
  7. Heat wok with oil and fry batter into bite sizes

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Truly a very simple recipe. You can add more quantities to whichever ingredient you fancy. Feel free to replace the Asian Chive with cilantro or spring onions, shallots with garlic; fresh prawns with pounded dried shrimps or anchovies.

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I like spending the weekend afternoon at Agnes’s abode. You give yourself the little treats and enjoyment without having to spend too much money nor time. An awesome afternoon tea with family. Homemade prawn fritters or cucur udang served with a pot of hot English tea.

Live life joyously and simply.

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