Hakka Cuisine and The Famous vegan Thunder tea rice


My piece on Hakka cuisine in Singapore for SCMP. I only discovered Thunder tea rice (leicha) in recent years and absolutely love the vegan edition at Thunder Tree, Singapore.


Hakka Cuisine

Hakka cuisine is a Southern Chinese with bold, rich flavours. There is a large Hakka immigrant population in Singapore and some of the signature dishes like Yong Tau Foo, Salt-baked chicken and Thunder Rice tea are common place in hawker centres and restaurants. Hakka cuisine also uses generously pickled vegetables, salted fish and mustard greens as well as tofu that add depth and richness to the dishes.

Hakka Thunder Tea Rice

This super nutritious and healthy dish also known as Hakka Lei Cha rice is made of a mixture of ground tea leaves, herbs, nuts and seeds pounded into a paste and served as a soup to pour over rice or noodles.

Leicha is eaten throughout the year in Singapore, but is especially popular as a Chinese New Year tradition. On the seventh day of the new year, Hakka people believe that they should eat seven types of vegetables. Because making the dish is time-consuming, with the need to grind the herbs and tea and julienne the different types of vegetables, families increasingly go out to eat it. Freshness is the key to the dish, which needs to be prepared à la minute.

Thunder Tree is a vegan restaurant in Singapore that specialises in traditional leicha. Variations to this dish sometimes add dried shrimp and minced meat, and every Hakka family has their own recipe, but Thunder Tree keeps it fully plant-based – as close to the original as possible. A generous bowl of vegan leicha served with brown rice will set you back S$7.80 (US$5.70) – a little pricier than other outlets, but with their organic farm-to-table approach you’re paying for quality.

Many years ago, whilst living in Beijing I visited the Hakka traditional homes in Fujian, which is a UNESCO heritage site.

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