The story is told about the legendary General Zhang Fei who was about to attack Chengdu during the era of the Three Kingdoms in China.
However, his troops fell ill and many were weary from the long and tiresome march; they had no energy to march on, what’s more, to take on the people of Chengdu.
It was an old lady whose herbal concoction revived the entire army that they were rejuvenated – and soon, they were strong again not only to fight, but won the war.
The secrets of this concoction has been preserved as what is now known as the lei cha which is a famous cuisine amongst the Hakka diaspora in Malaysia. In recent years, due to a greater interest in health food, lei cha is now accepted by mainstream diners.
It takes a while to acquire the taste. My wife, who is a Hakka, did not like it initially, but after teasing from me, she decided to try it. Now, she can take the entire bowl of lei cha on her own without the rice!
The reason, as pointed out by Big Big Bowl Hakka Kitchen’s restaurant owner, Angie Lim, is because she uses more basil than mint.
“A lot of people cannot accept the strong mint taste,”
“Our lei cha soup is thicker and it has more basil in it.”
For this, I can fully agree with her that in terms of value for money, Angie’s lei cha is a lot more concentrated and tastes better than that offered in most other places that I have tried.
With the idea of teaching my children to always go for the more healthy food whenever they have to eat out, I decided to do a research into the lei cha.
Often mistaken for the word, ‘lei’ (雷) which means ‘thunder’, the actual Chinese word used for lei cha is 擂, which means, being ‘beaten.’ Combined with the word ‘cha’, it simply means ‘pounded tea.’
There are two versions of lei cha, but in Malaysia, it is the Hakka lei cha that is more popular than the Hunan lei cha.
According to Angie, they use eight different types of vegetables to prepare this one cuisine. The basil and mint leaves are pounded together with roasted sesame seeds and groundnuts into a paste that is to be added into water to turn it into a soup-like herbal tea.
“The vegetables have to be cut into smaller pieces so that the lei cha can then be added to the mix,”
“They can either add white rice, brown rice or our lei cha noodles, handmade from pounded vegetables.”
If anything, the whole process is very time consuming and unless there is a high turnover, a number of restaurants only offer the lei cha once or twice a week.
However, at Angie’s Big Big Bowl, the lei cha is available throughout the week. In fact, you can even buy the refrigerated paste from her and prepare your own lei cha to be eaten any time of the day.
Customers like me who want to reduce the intake of carbohydrates, prefer to eat the lei cha without the additional rice or noodles.
I am amazed that both my children, including my six-year-old daughter, have already started to love the lei cha. This is a good way to encourage them to take more vegetables than meat.
Restoran Big Big Bowl Hakka Kitchen is located at No 5A Jalan Desa 2/7, Desa Aman Puri, Kepong, 52100 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 012-211 5564
Operating hours: 8 am – 9 pm through the week, off only on alternate (second and fourth) Tuesdays of the month.
Waze location: Search for Big Bowl Hakka Kitchen
Facebook: Type in “Big Bowl Hakka Kitchen”