Thunder tea rice

Thunder tea rice

The Real Food of China
Leanne Kitchen

Here’s an interesting dish and a great one for feeding a crowd. It is believed to have originated in the mountainous, tea-producing area of Fujian during the turbulent Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history. A general and his men fighting there became ill and a local herbal practitioner taught them to forage the hills for herbs, then pound them with ginger, nuts and tea to make a restorative elixir. The dish today involves pouring the hot ‘tea’ over bowls of rice and an assembled collection of blanched vegetables, fried anchovies, chopped tofu and the like.


Quantity Ingredient
600g long-grain rice

Rice toppings

Quantity Ingredient
125g salted radish, finely chopped
50g dried shrimp
4 heads baby bok choy, chopped into 1 cm pieces
250g beans, cut into 5 mm pieces
250g chinese broccoli, cut into 5 mm pieces
250g chinese cabbage, trimmed and cut into 1 cm pieces
750ml vegetable oil
90g dried anchovies
10 spring onions, finely sliced
250g fried tofu puffs, cut into 1 cm pieces
240g roasted, salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Herb and peanut ‘tea’

Quantity Ingredient
30g oolong tea leaves
2 1/2 tablespoons Toasted sesame seeds
120g roasted, salted peanuts
2 1/2 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
1 very firmly packed cup coriander leaves
1 very firmly packed cup mint
1 very firmly packed cup thai basil


  1. To prepare the toppings, put the salted radish in a bowl, cover with cold water and set aside for 40 minutes. Drain, then squeeze the radish to get rid of as much liquid as possible. Put the dried shrimp in a heatproof bowl, cover with boiling water and soak for 30 minutes, or until soft, then drain.
  2. Cook the bok choy for 1–2 minutes in a large saucepan of boiling salted water. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a colander. Using the back of a large spoon, press down on the bok choy to get rid of as much water as possible, then transfer to a bowl. Repeat the process with the snake beans, Chinese broccoli and cabbage, cooking them separately and draining well.
  3. Heat the oil in a wok over a medium–high heat. Add the anchovies and cook for 2–3 minutes, or until crisp, then remove using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Reserve one-third of the fried anchovies for the tea and place the remaining anchovies in a small serving bowl. Place the cooked toppings and the remaining toppings in individual bowls and set aside.
  4. Put the rice in a saucepan, add 1.125 litres water, then cover the pan tightly and cook over a medium heat for 12–15 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and set aside for 5–10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, to make the ‘tea’, put the oolong leaves in an electric spice grinder and grind to a powder. Remove to a bowl. Put the sesame seeds in the spice grinder and grind to a fine powder, then add to the tea in the bowl. Put the peanuts and ginger in a food processor and process until as finely ground as possible. Add the mint, Thai basil and coriander leaves and process until the leaves are very finely chopped. Add the ground sesame seeds and tea leaves and the reserved fried anchovies and process briefly to combine well.
  6. Just before you are ready to serve, transfer the mixture in the food processor to a large heatproof bowl. Using a whisk, add 1 litre boiling water, whisking to combine well. To serve, divide the rice and hot ‘tea’ separately among individual serving bowls (or serve the hot tea from a communal bowl to pour over the rice). Serve with the toppings, to add as desired.
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