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To the best of my memory, while I was growing up, I managed to never try the classic Hakka dish of tea rice (lei cha fan), a kind of Hakka herbal ochazuke. My mother is half Hakka and half Cantonese. Most of the food we ate was Cantonese. I actually think the Hakka dish that most commonly appeared on our table was stuffed tofu (and miscellaneous stuffed vegetables, usually bell peppers). Mom only really got into the pickling thing relatively late, that I recall. We have enough seasonal fresh vegetables back home that pickling foods was often just a flavour-enhancer, or something specific for a recipe later down the line. More importantly, our food already used a great deal of fermented (primarily seafood) products anyway, and just about any food item that could be dried and stay dead, roughly in that order. (Oh, unsmelly salted fish, where art thou?)

Both of us have been buried under work lately. My eating habits have gone to bits, and Seth's belly is still delicate enough to require careful, mild eating. Comfort food is required. We both like tea rice from various cultures, and I had these mustard greens pickling with leeks the past couple of weeks. The general idea behind Hakka tea rice is topping steamed white rice with various fresh and pickled vegetables, and a protein, if available, before pouring on a ground herbal tea mix. It's meant to be rustic and filled with simple flavours (although versions in Malaysian restaurants these days can get kind of posh). I definitely didn't have the herbs or the time on hand to grind up my herbal tea, but I did have good genmaicha, which has all that lovely toasted rice and green tea flavour.

You're probably wondering about the kimchee. Well, on St. Patrick's Day, I made a batch of chocolate stout cakes, and was also looking to make more kimchee. I wanted to try making a kimchee that wasn't Chinese cabbage, and we'd just bought a large bag of baby mustard greens. So I used some of the chocolate stout and molasses that went into the cake as my liquid base for the kimchee seasoning, and threw that into a jar with mustard greens and chopped leeks. I must admit, it smelled awesome going in, like barley miso, very earthy and hoppy. It still smelled like barley miso after a week. When I sampled some of the pickled greens, they had taken on a mustard green noir profile almost. Actually a little strong even with plain congee, and that's where I got the idea it would taste great stir fried with something. My original idea was to sprout some bean mix and stir fry it with that, but chicken is faster.

The final result, rice topped with stir fried chicken and green tea, was everything we needed to pick us up after a really long day. It wasn't too filling, but it made us feel content. I'll probably only make this occassionally, as I only get a craving for this many particularly earthy flavours in one bowl only occassionally, but it is a nice taste to remember.

Mustard Green, Leek & Molasses Kimchee
1 big bunch mustard greens (kai lan) or ½ bag baby mustard greens, chopped into bite-sized pieces
½ stick leek
3 tbsps rice flour
1 tsp Korean chilli flakes
2 tbsps molasses
1 cup dark stout
½ cup water
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
3 tbsp rough salt

1. Mix greens and salt in a ziploc bag. Marinate for 6 hours, shaking the bag every hour or so to evenly distribute the salt.
2. Rinse and dry greens at least twice. Try to get out as much salt as possible.
3. Bring stout, water, molasses, chilli flakes, garlic, ginger and rice flour to a gentle boil. The paste should thicken before you turn off the heat. Let cool.
4. Layer greens and kimchee paste in a jar (with lid), leave about an inch or two off the top for fermentation. Cover jar loosely with its lid.
5. Keep jar in a warm, dark place for about 3 days, or until bubbles actively start to form in the paste. Tamp down the pickles with a clean spoon or chopstick every day, to release bubbles.
6. Refrigerate. They're best eaten after a week of maturing. Good pickles almost never die.

The Stir Fry
2 chicken breasts (thinly sliced)
½ stick leek
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 cup pickled mustard greens with pickling liquid (from above)
2 tbsp cooking oil

1. Marinate chicken and mustard greens. Set aside.
2. Heat leek and garlic in oil on high flame until fragrant.
3. Add chicken. Stir fry until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Add about a tablespoonful of water at a time if the 'sauce' is too thick.
4. Serve chicken on top of steamed rice, with or without green or oolong tea poured on top (like a soup).



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 3rd, 2013 11:42 pm (UTC)
I'm nervous about putting tea on rice ... I might try it at a restaurant first.
Apr. 4th, 2013 01:03 am (UTC)
It's literally what it sounds like, pouring green or black tea on rice. Nothing too complex, honest. :)
Apr. 4th, 2013 01:06 pm (UTC)
Oh, I think mustard greens are too bitter. I'm not sure making it into kimchi would make me like them better. :(

But I think using stout is interesting. I may have to try that.

Apr. 4th, 2013 07:53 pm (UTC)
Ah, I kind of like bitterness, so I didn't really notice. :) Oddly enough, the stout was way too bitter and strong for me as a drink. I imagined it was close to ancient beers -- closer to a strong yeasted beverage you drank because potable water wasn't widely available. It somehow worked great as a marinade and in cake though.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )