With the cool weather being persistent endless cups of the soothing elixir are swallowed to keep warm, but tea can also be used in cooking. Yes you read right. Tea: That stuff you associate with your favourite cuppa.
Any good chole maker will tell you that the secret to making authentic chole is the addition of tea! But that is the extent to which the Indian kitchen goes with tea as an ingredient. While tea is an important part of many Asian cultures, it goes beyond being just a beverage. The practice of cooking with tea is as old as the history of tea itself. In ancient China tea was used as an ingredient in a variety of ways.
In Chinese cuisine; dried leaves are used to stuff fish prior to steaming, or added to the smoking mix used to smoke duck and chicken. Strong infusions are even used to braise a variety of dishes including greens. One iconic dish is Tea cooked eggs, in which eggs are boiled in spiced tea infused water and get a distinctly marbled appearance on the whites. The trick to this is that their shells are cracked prior to the final minutes of cooking, allowing the tea infused water to seep through the cracked shell and dye the exposed white.
Tea is intrinsic to Japanese cuisine as well. Japanese green tea or Sencha tea is offered to guests across Japan. and the first tea of the season, called Shincha (shin means first and cha is tea) a very tender and fresh Sencha is often enjoyed first as a brewed cup and then as a side diseaten as is or dressed and savoured as a “salad” . In fact tea, especially green tea, has become very haute as an ingredient in the modern day kitchen.
Try cooking with tea, it will not revolutionise your cooking but it will it a subtle but elegant twist. Here is a little something savoury and sweet to set you off!
Tea marinated chicken/tofu stirfry.
- 500 gms tofu or boneless chicken cut into bitesized pieces.
- 4 Tsp black tea leaves
- unscented oil, enough to coat pa
- juice of half a lemon
- 4 cloves garlic smashed then finely chopped
- salt to taste
- 2 tsp Oyster sauce (look for the vegetarian version if using tofu)
- 2 cups shredded lettuce
Place chicken or Tofu in a bowl. Combine tea leaves, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pour over chicken/tofu. Leave to marinate for 1 hour. Heat pan and add oil to coat. Add chicken or tofu and stirfry lightly. Add oyster sauce and stir fry untill cooked. Spread shredded lettuce in a pan and spoon cooked chicken/ tofu over. Serve hot as a starter.
Green tea squares
This is my twist on my nani’s traditional recipe for Tapkhir jo halvo. The green tea gives it a lovely color and subtle flavour.
- 1 c arrowroot flour
- 1 ¼ c sugar
- 3 c cold green tea
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 2-3 tsp ghee
- 1 tsp green tea (macha) to dust (optional)
Mix 2.5 cups green tea, lemon juice and arrowroot flour and set aside. In another pan, bring the remaining tea and sugar to a boil. When melted completely, add the arrowroot mix and stir well. When it starts to thicken, add the ghee and stir well. Allow to thicken some more (It will start to leave the sides of the pan). Pour into a thali, allow to cool and set. Cut into diamonds or squares, dust with powdered green tea.
*Recipe specially developed for Natures Basket by celebrity gastronome Rushina Munshaw Ghidiyal
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