Traditional Hakka Lui Cha @ Boon Lay Market

Hakka Lui Cha (客家擂茶)

Lui Cha (擂茶) is an iconic Hakka rice dish that is topped with chopped leeks, long beans, kale (kai-lan), mani cai, string bean, cabbage, beancurd (tau kwa), pickled radish (cai pok), and served with a bowl of grinded tea made from a selection of herbs such as basil and mint.

Well, there might not be any hard and fast rule stipulating what vegetables to be used in the making of this dish as I believe the Hakka womenfolk simply used whatever vegetables they have on hand or had growing in their backyard at that moment.

As a kid, I would throw a fit whenever my Hakka Mum cooks this. In all honesty, which kid would be happy to see the dining table full of vegetables with... NO MEAT?

Back then, I failed to see the goodness behind this super salad.

In fact, it is good for detoxification, increases our metabolism, lowers cholesterol plus a plethora of other health benefits.

It took me many years before I finally learned how to appreciate this humble cuisine.

There are two parts to this dish: the tea which you need to grind and the seven types of vegetables that you need to chop and fry individually.

You can drink the savoury tea separately, or mix it in the rice with all your vegetables thrown in.

To enjoy Lui Cha, an acquired taste is required as most people would be put off by it's tea color and bitter aftertaste.

It might not be the cup of tea (pun) for most people at first try though I am sure it will grow on you if you consume it often enough.

The word "Lui Cha" really mean "Grind Tea" in the Hakka language. In Mandarin, it is pronounced as "Lei Cha". Yet, there are some who call it "Hum Cha" which means Salted Tea.

Thunder Tea is a direct translation of "Lui Cha"  but it is a misrepresented English name as the words "Thunder" (雷) and "Grind" (擂) sounds the same.

The word "Lui" does not mean thunder but the act of grinding the tea and herbs in a specially made earthern pot.

Mum's precious pot

It is not easy to find such pots anymore, especially in Singapore.

This particular pot has been around for as long as I could remember. It might even be older than I am. I am not surprised that this will eventually be passed down as a family heirloom!

To make the tea, you make circular motion with the pestle (which is a branch from the Guava tree) to grind the mint, basil, sesame seeds, etc.

The grooves in the pot aids in breaking up the herbs faster.

Pictured left is the concentrated finished product before adding hot water.

Looks rather unappetising but it's good for our immunity and general health! 

With Mum getting on in years, she has stopped making the tea as it is rather physically demanding to grind it into a paste.

Whenever the cravings come, we would just eat out. There are not many Lui Cha stalls around but there is one near us, fortunately.

We like the Lui Cha stall located at the old Boon Lay Market.

Their Lui Cha with white rice is priced at $3 while it's $3.50 with Brown Rice.

Considering the many health benefits and tedious process of making this dish, it is a small price to pay for the hassle of preparing it yourself.

Do ask for additional "Cha" at no extra cost if you like your tea thicker.

Directions: Take bus number 240 from Boon Lay Bus Interchange and alight at the second bus stop after Boon Lay Community Centre.

Boon Lay Place Food Village
Blk 221B
Boon Lay Place
Singapore 642221