Chagayu Porridge, bringing tea and Porridge together from my travels

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For the second dish in my series of ‘International Porridge Recipes’ its time for lunch. Whilst savoury Porridge has become a trend in Britian over the last few years, Porridge made for lunch and dinner is a staple in Japan, so before heading off on my travels I read up on different Japanese Porridge dishes. 

‘Chagayu’ or ‘Tea Porridge’ is the most famous of the savoury Porridge options. However on arriving in Japan I found it hard to track down. Chagayu is made from rice that has been cooked in tea and has has three culinary traditions; it is served as a restorative Porridge to people who are ill. It is cooked up for helpers at big events such as festivals and weddings. It is also known as Kenzui in tea growing regions, where it is served to tea pickers in the fields as a sort of elevenses.

It makes sense that it wasn’t until I reached to famous tea growing region of the Kyoto Prefecture that I started to come across Tea Porridge. From then on I found the dish made with the specialty tea of the area from high grade matcha to ‘builders brew’ bancha tea. Definitely the best Chagayu I ate on my travels was served in Cafe Kanna, Nara, the 8th century capital of Japan. By the time I had reached Nara I was travel weary and hungry. Wandering the streets of the city looking for lunch I was stopped by a local lady and her dog, who took it upon themselves to be my Tea Porridge tour guide, and help me find Cafe Kanna. It was worth the search!

Whilst I got to try variations of Chagayu, my recipe is based on the tea flavours that I felt best complemented the dish. I’ve paired that with toppings and accompaniments that make this a nutritious dish (think of it as an alternative to chicken soup) whilst I hope also keeping it simple enough to be served for a hearty lunch.

Chagayu – Tea Porridge 

Ingredients 

200g wholegrain rice

1 Litre water

2 teaspoons roasted tea

Seasonal vegetables

Seaweed

Oily fish such as mackerel

Makes: Two hearty portions

Takes: 2 hours pre-soaking 30 mins cooking

Method

Rinse and soak the rice for two hours.

Place the water a deep heavy based saucepan and heat to below the boil.

Place the loose leaf tea in an infuser. I use Tencha tea from Obubu tea farm in Wazuka, Kyoto, but any roasted Japanese tea such as Hojicha will make a tasty Porridge.

Put the infuser into the saucepan of water and heat for 10 mins. Then remove the infuser.

Discard the water than the rice has been soaking in.  Rinse again and then place into the tea water.

Cook the rice for 20 mins or until it is soft.

Whilst the rice is cooking wash and steam your choice of seasonal vegetables. Once cooked take the water from the vegetables and add to the cooking rice.

Then prepare the fish; I use mackerel, either grilled fillets or tinned for a quick lunch. 

Once everything is cooked take two wide, deep bowls. Layer in the vegetables, then the rice Porridge and finally the fish. Finally garnish the dish with the seaweed and serve hot.

From a cold to a long day at work, I hope that Chagayu will restore your spirits and your energy levels, and show you yet another delicious way to enjoy ‘International Porridge’.

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