Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Thunder Rice Tea - Lei Cha Fan

Lei cha fan - thunder rice tea
"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.

Main outlet (click to see latest outlet details)
328 Joo Chiat Road
Time: 1000 - 2200
Telephone: 6342-0223

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


  1. Definitely an acquired taste, I have tried it twice --- liked it the first time, not so much the second time at a different stall. I guess it depends on the person who prepares it too?

  2. I've heard so much about lei cha but haven't got the courage to try them.

  3. This sounds absolutely healthy and nutritious!
    I reckon obesity wouldn't really be a problem if everyone ate this regularly and swapped it for char kuay teow and fries. ;)
    But, it doesn't sound very appetising eh. I will give it a try though. :)

  4. i've tried it twice as well and didn't like it both times, once in Singapore and another in JB. taste like toothpaste sounds like a good description of how i felt! LOL!

    definitely acquired taste like menma... ;)

  5. I am a hakka and i am very lucky that my grandma cook lei cha at least once every month. I must say, hers is the best that i have tasted so far!
    My grandma grinds/pounds the cha with this traditional wooden pot and stick whereas the vendors usually use the blender for their cha. I think there is some difference in the texture, taste of the cha and i prefer when you do it the traditional way. (:
    And at home, they don't scrimp on the dried shrimp, tofu, chye poh. So its really much more delicious!
    And i am a big fan of lei cha too!

  6. I love my mum's version, savoury but light & refreshing. She got the ingredients for the tea broth & various vegetables from our relatives in M'sia. I'm a Hakka and this is one of the dishes that I prefer to eat at home. The other dishes I hardly eat ouside home are hakka yong tou fu and suan4 pan2 zi3 (abacus yam thingy). Too bad, I have not picked up my mum's skills. Hopefully one day...

  7. Be careful, if u eat too much, result could be Thunder Thighs :)
    Suspect many spore gals took this unfortunate route, hehe

  8. I've tried the outlet at VivoCity Food Republic and the one at Geylang. The Geylang version is much better in my opinion.

    I prefer to eat the rice separately from the tea. Easier to eat it.

  9. Oh wow, it's good for arthritis? I must try it then, not sure if I will like it, but if it helps, why not huh? Thanks for this write-up. :)

  10. Hehe, all you ppl who haven't tried it - just do it!

    And all you ppl who have Hakka mothers/grandmothers cooking you the authentic and augmented (extra good ingredients) versions, LUCKY LUCKY you! Maybe you can invite the ones who haven't tried it or don't like it. Heck, invite me too! lol

    Thunder thighs? LOL!!! Yes, beware, because even though this dish is vegetable-heavy, it's not necessarily low-fat - as can be seen by presence of peanuts and fried anchovies. And since one doctor commented my thighs a bit thin for my height, I guess I can indulge more!

    I must try teh Geylang version.

    Singairishgirl - you can ask them to omit the chye-sim. Yes, I got funny looks for it but it sure makes the dish less bitter!

  11. I recently discovered this wonderful dish (and blogged about it too). Love it love it love it! Thanks for the extra information. :-)

  12. hmmm
    actually never heard of this.

    when u mention food as medicine, it reminds me of da chang jin! those 'medicine' on the show looks so much easier to digest :-)

  13. cam~ how does it taste like? :X my mum always hinting to try some when we see it, but i'm too afraid to try~ :P does it taste like porridge?


  14. L.Lemongrass: ooh love the pics you took. So much more dried shrimp!

    K-man: eh, you love veges, haven't try this before? It's like your all-in-one vegetable meal! TRY! :D

    Amanda: umm...no, does not taste like porridge. Tastes more like savoury vege soup with rice (with sweetness from ikan bilis and dried shrimp).

    By the way, you don't have to use up ALL the soup that they give you. Might be too much for some people. I usually only use half cos I don't like to drown my rice in soup.

  15. agree that it's definitely an acquired taste. Being a Hakka, lei cha has always been my family favourite.

    Should definitely try the Geylang stall. Go early as you also want to try the Hakka Fried Yong Tau Foo; tau kwa that's stuffed with meat.

  16. I find the rice is very nice but the green soup is soooooooo bitter like medicine..... Tried the stall at VivoCity Food Republic.

  17. I ate at Amoy Hawker centre today and found their vegetables too sweet, maybe they had forgotten to add salt?

  18. I tried the stall at Geylang ytd. My first time eating Hakka Lei Cha. I have to say that it tastes bland but after finishing the whole bowl and at night, I was craving for it again! Really really healthy food. Thanks for posting about the other outlets. Very good info for me as I'm gonna check these others out. =)

  19. This is my favourite but please (please....) do not call this "thunder" tea!!! "lei" in its actual Chinese name is a verb....

  20. Oh I did not know the Chinese "lei" is a verb ( I was merely following the shop's official name). So what does the verb mean? Thunderise?

  21. You should see how lei cha is traditionally done to understand the word. You can't pound it cause a clay pot and a wooden stick is use. Circular motion from the stick couple with the pot's rough surface kind of mill ingredients into a paste. Btw I don't think any rice is added into making the paste.


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