"Thunder tea is a mix of vegetables, served together with rice, and a tea poured over the top. I remember making make this dish called lei cha, which translates as thunder tea. Tea can really bring out some umami flavours and is therefore well suited to a savoury dish." Adam Liaw, Destination Flavour Singapore
- 440 g (2 cups) koshihikari or yumepirika rice (short grain Japanese rice)
- 2 tsp grapeseed oil
- ½ cup dried baby sardines (jyako in Japanese)
- 1½ bunches garlic chives, finely chopped
- 1½ bunches Chinese spinach, finely chopped
- 300 g silken tofu, pressed and cut into 1 cm dice
- 80 g (½ cup) toasted pine nuts
- 1½ piece kombu
- 10 g dried bonito flakes
- 1 tbsp genmaicha tea leaves
- 80 g (½ cup) pinenuts
- 1 tbsp matcha powder
- lemon juice, to taste
- Sichuan pepper oil (see Note), to taste
- 1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 tsp salt
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
To cook the yumepirika rice, place the rice in a pan and cover well with cold water. Wash the rice well by agitating the grains in the pan, then drain the starchy, cloudy water, being careful not to lose any of the rice grains. Repeat the washing process 3 or 4 times or until the water runs mostly clear. Place the washed rice in a medium saucepan and add enough cold water to come about 3 cm above the top of the rice. Bring to a simmer over high heat and simmer uncovered until the water reaches the top of the rice. Small holes in the surface of the rice will appear where steam escapes. Reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and cook for 12-15 minutes without removing the lid. Turn off the heat and allow the rice to stand for a further 5 minutes without removing the lid. Uncover the rice and with a cutting motion of a spatula, fluff the rice grains.
Meanwhile, to make the tea dashi, place the kombu into a saucepan. Add 2 litres of cold water and bring to a simmer. Remove the kombu and bring the water to the boil, then add the bonito flakes and tea leaves. Remove from heat and allow to settle for 10 minutes. Strain, discard the solids and keep warm.
To make the thunder tea, place the pine nuts and matcha in a mortar and pestle and grind until fine. Add about 125 ml (½ cup) of the tea dashi and grind until milky. Add enough of the remaining tea dashi to achieve the consistency of thin cream. Strain through a piece of muslin and discard any solids, then season the tea with lemon juice, salt and a dash of Sichuan oil.
To make the Sichuan salt, place the Sichuan peppercorns and salt in a small dry frying pan and shake over low heat until fragrant. Grind to a coarse powder.
Heat the grapeseed oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the dried baby sardines and cook until crisp but not browned. Drain on paper towel and season lightly.
Heat 30 ml of tea dashi in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic chives and spinach and toss until just wilted.
To assemble, divide the hot rice among 10 bowls. Top with the tofu, greens, toasted pine nuts and fried sardines, then lightly season with Sichuan salt. Place the “tea” in a warmed pot, then pour into the bowls just before serving.
• Sichuan pepper oil is also known as prickly ash oil and is available from Asian supermarkets.
Image by Tan Zexun.