How to Stretch Your Tea, and Eat It, Too

The Grocery Ninja leaves no aisle unexplored, no jar unopened, no produce untasted. Creep along with her below, and read her past market missions here.

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I don’t know about you, but filing my taxes has left me feeling kind of like the last prune in the bottom of the box—all dried out with icky crystallized sugar on top. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), rice recipes have been showing up everywhere—probably because everyone’s feeling a bit pinched on the money side of things, and rice is one of the most filling and affordable foods to be had for the money.

I doubt you guys need another recipe on how to cook rice, but how about drinking it? There are rice milks, alcohol, and those incredible sweet rice-based drinks Amazake, Sikhye, and Morro Horchata. But they’re all too involved for me in my ripped-off state. I don’t want to spend too much time at the stove, because that will lead to me angsting about holes in my pockets, stirring spoon in hand. Instead, all I want to do is be able to just add water.

20080413genmaichabag.jpgGenmaicha is Japanese green tea that has been cut with roasted brown rice grains. The brown rice acts as a filler, “extending” the tea, and was first used by Japanese peasantry to cut costs. These days it’s enjoyed by one and all, and is also called popcorn tea because some of the rice grains pop when roasted and look a lot like the familiar white stuff. Mild (or hearty, depending on how strong you like your tea and steep it for) and nutty, with a pleasant earthy aroma, genmaicha is usually savored hot, but I’m quite fond of it served chilled during the summer. The best thing about this tea is that it does double duty: once you’ve downed the pale gold brew, you can eat the now-cooked grains. It makes a virtuous, yummy snack with anti-oxidants from the green tea and bonus low GI whole grains. An elegant swap for designer joe, and a lot cheaper, too.

PS: For those not having much luck cooking rice, Sungnyung is a traditional Korean beverage made from the browned (but not charred) rice crust at the bottom of the pot. Yes, the same “wasted” stuff most people toss out. You add water, cover, and gently simmer till the rice has flavored the water (say, five to ten minutes). It’s usually served after meals or as breakfast for people who can’t face real food early in the morning. I like how it soothes my stomach after I’ve overindulged (both content and spice level-wise). Not that I regularly burn my rice.

About the author: Wan Yan Ling is an impoverished grad student and sourdough finger-crosser living in Rhode Island. She can usually be found in the kitchen procrastinating on "real work" or online tracking down obscure recipes. Ling thinks eating alone is no fun, and she still believes in hand-mixing.

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