Traditional Hakka Rice (河婆客家擂茶) – Healthy Thunder Rice in Tanjong Pagar
For the health conscious, a bowl of Hakka lei cha rice is always a good idea. Some hate it while others love lei-cha for its health benefits.
I met Chris who helps out at his mother’s thunder rice stall “Traditional Hakka Rice (河婆客家擂茶)” in Tanjong Pagar. Born into a Hakka family, Chris is familiar with thunder tea rice as it is their staple. Chris’ mother has been selling thunder tea rice since 2011. Chris was doing sales previously but decided to help his mother full time in 2017, and he hopes to take over the business in future.
Freshness is the key to good lei-cha, and here that’s a guarantee. Every morning, Chris’s mother pounds a mixture of fresh green herbs such as basil and peppermint with Chinese tea leaves and peanuts in a large bowl to make a nourishing lei cha soup. Each bowl of lei cha($3.50) comprises steamed rice, dainty cubes of toufu, mustard greens, kai lan, long beans, peanuts, dried shrimps, pickled radish and more. Brown rice is available at a top up of $0.50. They’ve got the side dishes-to-rice ratio more than right — the portions of the sides are surprisingly generous.
While some lei cha soup may be too bitter or harsh-tasting, this bowl of minty soup was not as overwhelming, despite being incredibly piquant and rich. I poured the whole bowl of soup into the rice and ate it together. If you like your soup very strong, this may not suit your tastebuds, but if you are someone who is trying lei cha for the first time, you will enjoy it.
When mixed together, the many elements melded harmoniously to form a gorgeous and healthy rice bowl. Chris’s mother even joked that she eats lei cha to keep her figure. However, with its long ingredient list, the preparation of lei cha is very time consuming. The duo has to be at the stall by 5am to prepare the ingredients so that they can open the stall at 9.30am.
The lei cha was a knock-out. It’s visually appealing, and really delicious. It’s great for vegans too. Nine to ten items, such as shiitake mushrooms, red cabbage, chai poh, and tofu, are part of the mix. The dish is all organic, and comes in handsome portions.
Besides lei cha, the stall also sells other Hakka delights such as yong tau foo ($1), bitter gourd ($1.20) and meat ball ($0.50). Chris’ mother makes the meat paste and separates it into three different bowls to use for different ingredients.
For example, they added cabbage head to the meat balls and dried shrimps to the bitter gourd. Their steamed tofu is really popular, and they named it xiao bai. Instead of adding water chestnut into the paste, they added turnip to give it more moisture and crunch. I think the wide selection of ingredients is what makes the stall popular. The ingredients sell out really quickly though, so if you want to have lunch here, come before 1pm.
PS: On the seventh day of the Lunar New Year, the stall will be selling 7 vegetables thunder tea.
Traditional Hakka Rice
Address: 6 Tanjong Pagar Plaza, Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market & Food Centre #02-21, Singapore 081006
Opening Hours: Mondays to Saturdays 9.30am to 7.30pm, Closed on Sundays