"Lei cha fan" or Thunder Rice Tea. The Chinese have long regarded food as medicine and this Chinese supersalad is the best detox meal if there ever was one. You get a wide variety of carefully selected vegetables (including blanched long beans, cabbage, carrots, four-angled beans, chye sim, celery, chye poh or preserved radish) and an almost medicinal green tea broth, which you pour onto the dry ingredients and enjoy, almost like an ochazuke (rice with tea). There's protein from tofu, fried anchovies, peanuts and pounded dried shrimp. Whether taken with brown or white rice, thunder rice tea makes a cheap, hearty, nutritious, fibre-rich meal. It's also reputed to boost metabolism.
This dish is from the Chinese migratory Hakka dialect group and is several hundred years old. I found out that although it has the Chinese character for thunder, "Lei" in Hakka means to mill or pound. So technically this is pounded rice tea? But still others say the name is due to the loud pounding noises made when preparing the ingredients. The many ingredients certainly make this a laborious process.
The taste however, is not for everyone. Some find it enervating and refreshing. Others do not like the bitter or strong herbal notes. The savoury broth is a complex mixture - ground green tea leaves, coriander, basil, mint, Chinese parsley, sesame seeds, ginger, mugwort and fuliksum (what on earth is fuliksum?). "Tastes like Colgate!" a former colleague of mine said of the strong minty factor. I find the taste improves after you let the broth soak up some of the umami flavour from the preserved radish, anchovies and dried shrimp.
This being a takeaway, the bowl of green tea given above is a concentrate. You can pour hot water into it to reconstitute the broth, so that it will be piping hot (hot tea is better for the body). Very thoughtful (unless you have no access to hot water when you eat it)!
You can get Thunder Rice Tea at increasingly more places in Singapore now. This is from the Food Republic food court in Suntec City (about S$3.50, brown rice costs more). I used to eat it at Market Street, and then the China Square food court (which has been demolished end March). I found a webpage for it. It's now available at Joo Chiat! Near me! Check out what the site says about the health benefits!
Physical value: Enhance slimming & body detoxification. Pharmacological value: Fatigue prevention, vitality promotion, physical improvement, improves body functions, ease digestion, ease chronic bronchitis, prevent hypertension & hardening of arteries, effective for chronic rheumatic and arthritic, inhibiting cancer cell growth, helps treat diabetes, enhance relaxation & improves good sleep.
Hmm, I should eat this more often! There is one shop in Geylang I haven't tried. And yet another in Jurong West but that's just too far away for me.
THUNDER RICE TEA
Main outlet (click to see latest outlet details)
328 Joo Chiat Road
Time: 1000 - 2200
Amoy Street Food Centre Branch
7 Maxwell Road #01-39
Time: 1100 - 2000, Off on Sunday
Vivocity Branch (Food Republic)
1 Harbourfront Walk #03-01 Stall 3
Time: 1000 - 2200 Telephone: 62732209
Lau Pa Sat Branch
18 Raffles Quay #01-12
Time: 0800 - 2200