Bright green in colour, Hoh Poh Lui Cha is a mishmash of all things healthy. A soup perfected with rice and vegetable combination. There is a surprising amount of history and tradition found in this simple, comforting bowl of soup.
What is Hoh Poh Lui Cha?
Found commonly in places with strong traces from the Hakka Hoh Poh clan, Lui Cha is a traditional dish, combining a grounded tea soup with a serving of fresh vegetables on the side.
They sometimes spelt as Lei Cha, which is loosely translated to ‘thunder tea and the ‘Lei’ in the name refers to the method of preparation. Traditionally, the Hakka people would mix tea, leafy herbs and vegetables with seeds, grains and legumes and grind them finely in a mortar and pestle.
The motion of grinding or grounding means ‘Lei’ and ‘Cha’ refers to tea made when hot water is added to the paste. The green soup would then be paired with a bowl of fresh vegetables and rice to make a complete meal.
Hoh Poh Lui Cha is the most popular of its type, found in countries like Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia, with a great emphasis on the herbs used, including basil, mugwort and mint. The accompanying rice bowl would be filled to the brim with rice, tofu, cooked black beans, long beans, sauteed vegetables, pickled radishes and toasted peanuts, among others.
History of Hoh Poh Lui Cha
Hakkas were a group of wandering nomads. As they travelled and moved around often, the key to sustaining themselves was able to live and thrive on whatever fresh grains and herbs they found in the location they were in. This gave way to the idea of Lui Cha becoming a bowl of rice with fresh and healthy vegetables.
Of course, many legends are surrounding the greatness of Lui Cha. One extends as early as the Song Dynasty, where soldiers fell ill to the plague. An old Hoh Poh lady came by with her pestle and mortar and grounded a unique concoction of green tea leaves, ginger and rice to make Lui Cha, which miraculously cured the army of any illnesses.
Variations of Hoh Poh Lui Cha
Lui Cha varies in recipes depending on the clan and region it came from. The oldest form of Lui Cha is said to be the Tao Hua Yuan Lei Cha, from Hunan, China. With over 2000 years in history, many believe that the dish was first originated from this location.
The Tao Hua Yuan Lei Cha is, however, far from simple. Any eager foodie hoping to give this dish a try must brave the magnanimity of up to 48 side dishes, ranging from chilli lotus, potato crisps, popcorn rice, rice crackers, corn, buckwheat cakes, pickled vegetables, and Baba bread. Generally, this form of Lei Cha is nuttier and duller in colour compared to its counterparts.
Today, Lui Cha is simplified and modified to suit the taste buds of the people. In Taiwan, a place known for its Hakka population has found ways to innovate its Lei Cha, turning it into a dessert instead of a hearty meal like it was intended to be.
Served with snacks like Hakka Mochi, biscuits, fried tofu, sweetened fruit and puffed rice, Taiwanese Lei Cha is made with tea leaves, sesame seeds and nuts, while other more “modern” recipes call for the use of pine nuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and cashews.
Where to Find Hoh Poh Lui Cha in Malaysia
You can find Lui Cha in Hakka restaurants and hawker stalls all around Malaysia. You can order this beautiful dish from Restoran Fong Lei.
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