For the next few postings, I’ll be sharing a handful of tea recipes from this new-to-me book – but augmented and edited for vegetarians. Today’s recipe is a simple soup with tea as broth. It’s full of vegetables,vegan, gluten-free, and super fast. Essentially, my kind of meal.
Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousands miles away, there are always two cups on my table. – Tang Dynasty
Kindred is the word that comes to mind when I pick up a cookbook that I instantly fall in love with. Fall with mad, passionate hunger, you know? The kind that empties my heart of its most recent meal, no matter how large or small. Like an immediate sense of fulfillment without any signs of previous deprivation. Like Christmas presents in August or something equally ridiculously out of place and time. This time, it was a book about a subject I’m quite obsessed with. Tea. I found it on a shelf while cruising the library aisles for cookbooks. What else?
I have a few books about tea, but none like this. Perhaps it’s the combination of recipes, methods, or just the vast array of cooking styles I happen to agree with… I think it just hit me just at the right angle – floored me, really. I wanted to make every recipe right away. There were simply not enough hours or stomachs I had to contain the recipes I needed to cook and eat. So naturally, I was filled with tea-thoughts and tea-readings but failed to make much of the recipes as their readings were all-consuming. I had the book at my side, but the indecision made cooking almost impossible. Now that my honeymoon with the tea book is over – I will flood you with some tea postings this month or next or indefinitely.
Let’s begin with a tea soup that I am quite familiar with – ochazuke. I’ve been eating ochazuke, or tea soup, since I started going to Samovar some years ago. It’s our favorite sunny SF teashop. Alas, the only sunny SF teashop I know of. It sits on top of a concrete waterfall within view of the SF Moma and the Jewish museum. Compared to the rest of Soma, the whole place is a maze of flowers where I’ve witnessed more than a few hummingbirds while taking tea in the rare San Francisco sun. I like to stare at all of the flowers and the bees that come to feast with me. If you go, bring a hat and some shades. It’s very exposed outside, a welcomed scene for fog-huggers like myself. For food, I suggest the jook bowl or the tea soup.
Unbeknownst to me, ochazuke is a Japanese tradition of sorts. I was quite surprised to find this piece of detail, as we eat Japanese food at least twice each week, I own two amazing Japanese cookbooks, and have read many others. None of them mention ochazuke. In fact, when I was reading about the tea broth in my new book, it doesn’t mention the name ochazuke at all. I discovered it just by Googling tea soup. It felt like the universe conspired to hide this bit of common knowledge from me until after I decided to share what I thought was rather rare. Life. Right?
Anyways, I love this tea soup because I can put whatever I want in it and it’s easier to make than dashi. The tea soup in my photos is a version of Samovar’s ochazuke – a genmai cha broth served over brown rice with carrots, broccoli, edamame, wakame, grated ginger, and soy sauce with seared tofu. Though, you’re only limited by your imagination. I can imagine all sorts of toppings. One common accompaniment for meat-eaters is seared salmon.
I get this tea soup on most visits to Samovar, even though it’s ridiculously easy to make. Think boiling water. On one trip, my tofu was not seared and the server insisted that it was never served that way, which made me feel kind of confused and disappointed. For this recipe, I am suggesting a tea-roasted tofu from the Culinary Tea book. It’s a simple kind of savory and earthiness. Make plenty and you can stash it away for other uses – sandwiches, rice bowls, whatever you like that can use a bit of tofu on the side.
The natural progression from boiling water to boiling water with something in it can hardly be avoided, and in most cases is heartily to be wished for. As a steady diet, plain water is inclined to make thin fare, and even saints of which there are unexpected number these days, will gladly agree that a few herbs and perhaps a carrot or two and maybe a bit of meager bone on feast days can mightily improve the somewhat monotonous flavor of the hot liquid.
Soup, in other words, is good. – How to Cook a Wolf, MFK
Japanese ochazuke tradition dates back to pre-tea era when hot water was used, so you don’t have to use tea – it’s just more flavorful and just as fast as boiling water.
Genmai Cha Soup with Brown Rice (serves 2 very generous portions)
1 c brown rice, cooked (I prefer this method from Saveur)
Your favorite toppings: broccoli, edamame, seaweed, roasted tofu (below), and whatever you like!!
2 TB freshly grated ginger (freeze ginger for easy grating)
Tamari (tamari is gluten-free and tastes better, use soy sauce if you don’t have tamari)
6 cups of freshly brewed Genmai Cha
+ Serve soup in large bowls with a serving of rice and toppings. Add 1TB of ginger per bowl and pour hot tea over everything. Add tamari/soy sauce to taste.
Tea Roasted Tofu:
1/4 c tamari
1 TB smoky black tea like Pu-erh, or Genmai Cha
3 blocks of Tofu, sliced into 6 ‘steaks’ per block
+ Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Brew tea in tamari by microwaving it for 25 seconds (it should be hot and bubbly). Allow tea to steep for 5 minutes. Strain (optional).
+ Coat tofu in tamari and roast for 15 minutes. Flip tofu and roast for another 15 minutes. To reheat, pan-sear tofu in sesame oil until crisp or golden brown.
PS: I’ve reformatted some photos for the blog’s layout. You can see original, separated images on my Flickr, along with any extras. Best/Phi