Cheap & Good

Cheap & Good: Goodness of greens in Hakka-style thunder tea rice

The traditional Hakka tea rice at Berseh Food Centre is a delicious home-style version.
The traditional Hakka tea rice at Berseh Food Centre is a delicious home-style version. ST PHOTO: REBECCA LYNNE TAN

Lei cha fan or Hakka-style thunder tea rice is one dish that is hard to come by at hawker centres.

So, whenever I see a stall offering the traditional rice dish that is topped with various types of vegetables and other condiments served with a bowl of green-hued soup, I usually make a beeline for it.

I first tried this dish at a friend's home many years ago and, since then, I've been hooked on this heap of green goodness.

Not only does it tick the box for eating clean, it also makes for a perfect Meatless Monday meal.

Each family's recipe for the dish is different. The condiments can vary. And some make their tea, which is enjoyed as a soup, with sharper mugwort leaves while others include more mint, basil and coriander. Some versions also have a stronger sesame flavour.

The Traditional Hakka Tea Rice stall at Berseh Food Centre in Jalan Besar serves a home-style version that is both comforting and delicious.


  • Where: 02-52 Berseh Food Centre, 166 Jalan Besar

    Open: 8am to about 4pm, closed on Saturdays

    Rating: 3/5

You can opt for lei cha with white rice ($4.50) or brown rice ($5). Go for brown rice as it has a low glycemic index. It will leave you feeling less lethargic after your meal.

You get a generous serving of toppings that include snake beans, julienned cabbage and finely chopped leafy greens that have all been stir-fried individually, as well as tau kwa (firm tofu), chye poh (preserved radish), hae bee (dried shrimp) and crispy ikan bilis (whitebait).

The bowl is a sight to behold. With multiple shades of green, beige and brown that meld together to form a soothing colour wheel, it is a feast for the eyes.

Every serving of thunder tea rice comes with a perky bowl of herbaceous and minty tea-soup with a hint of roasted sesame. It is fresh and invigorating - just what I need to get me through a busy day.

The stall also sells a few types of handmade Hakka yong tau foo ($1 each) such as tofu stuffed with a fragrant and well-seasoned minced pork and salted fish filling. Order a couple of pieces as an appetiser.

Tedium is perhaps the reason why so few stalls sell thunder tea rice. Chopping and cutting vegetables by hand, then having to cook them individually is time consuming. It takes effort to serve authentic, traditional fare.

Thunder tea rice at hawker centres is a rare find. Foodies, please keep this one alive.

• Follow Rebecca Lynne Tan on Twitter @STrebeccatan

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 04, 2018, with the headline Cheap & Good: Goodness of greens in Hakka-style thunder tea rice. Subscribe