Green tea over rice, called O-chazuke in Japan, is a common dish that is easily prepared by simply pouring freshly brewed green tea (usually Bancha or Hojicha) over heated rice and topped with various seasonings. You can use reheated leftover rice (which is probably the reason why this dish was invented in the first place), but I really think that the combination of freshly cooked rice and steaming hot tea brings out their light and aromatic flavours in the best way.
O-chazuke is usually eaten warm, the rice being (re-)heated first and the tea being poured over it. However, on hot summer days this dish can also be enjoyed cold. As I’m rooted in the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the concept of Qi and warmth circulating in our bodies, I can’t get used to the idea of eating something straight from the fridge and it personally will always give me a belly-ache.
Green tea, according to Chinese medicine is a cooling food in itself, and the short-grain rice is seen as neutral in temperature. If you enjoy this dish hot or at least at room temperature, you will still experience a balancing effect on your body, whereas chilled foods might make you feel hot and sweaty just some time after they have supposedly cooled you down.
That said, it’s certainly true that our bodies are different and each can tolerate different foods and temperatures, so you best try yourself and see what feels good for you. (As for myself, I save my share of chilled foods for a scoop of ice-cream here and there … )
Toppings for O-chazuke are typically Japanese and can be varied and combined to one’s liking. Here’s my list of vegetarian favorites:
- Nori, Dulse or other seaweed
- Tsukemono (Japanese pickled vegetables, e.g. Takuan)
- Crumbled rice crackers
- Mitsuba (Japanese parsley)
- Fresh sprouts
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Spring onions
For this recipe I’m using two parts short-grain brown rice and one part white rice, for texture. This is my compromise for most dishes that call for white rice, especially when having guests over who are not used to the full and sometimes a little sturdy taste of whole grains.When transitioning from a “white” grain diet, slowly increasing the amount of whole grains in your dishes is a good idea to help you get used to the fuller taste of these foods and your belly get acquainted with the density of nutrients and fiber, which can be a bit overwhelming when shifting too fast.
O-Chazuke, to me, is the perfect summer recipe. Enjoy as a light snack on a sweltering August afternoon, while you lie stretched out in your underwear on the only unpadded piece of furniture you own and watch old Japanese movies (see my recommendation below). While preparing, imagine the rice as a mountain-top that is covered in snow, despite the heat further down. The tea turns into a refreshing pond of soft and calming green. Sprinkle with salty bits of Ume, sesame and seaweed – they replenish the minerals you have lost with your sweat. Lastly, top with bright green sprouts that resemble a forest of young, tiny trees. And then, do nothing much more than listen to the cooling sound of the wind chime when a slight breeze moves it.
This version is a minimalist one. The toppings are basic and leave the center stage to rice and tea, so make sure you use ingredients of good quality.
RECIPE: Green Tea over Rice
Ingredients (1 serving)
- 2 parts whole short grain rice, cooked – about 2 tablespoons
- 1 part white short grain rice (aka Sushi rice), cooked – about 1 tablespoon
- 1 cup freshly brewed green tea (I used matcha rolled whole grain Genmaicha)
- dash of Shoyu soy sauce
- pinch of salt
- 1 tsp toasted sesame seed
- 1 Umeboshi
- 1 tsp Dulse seaweed
- fresh broccoli sprouts
This recipe is as straight-forward as can be: Toast the Dulse seaweed in a dry pan for a few seconds, to make it crispy. Spoon the hot rice into a bowl (make sure it’s one you love). Brew the tea for about 60 seconds and strain, add a dash of soy sauce and a little salt. Top the rice with sesame seed, Ume plum and Dulse. Pour the tea into the bowl and garnish with sprouts.
For the chilled version brew the tea, strain and let cool to room temperature, or chill in the fridge. Use rice at room temperature and follow the procedure above.
Although this dish is supposedly a popular night snack, individuals sensitive to caffeine should make sure they rather consume it during the day.
As some of you might have guessed, O-chazuke is also the namesake of this blog! I first came across this recipe when watching the 1952 movie “The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice” by Yasujiro Ozu. Although the film wasn’t a success and is rated as rather shallow and funny (as opposed to his more “meaningful” works, which he is famous for) I still enjoyed the fabulous actors, as well as Ozu’s calm and slow-paced directing style and his love for quiet and thoughtful images, that allow the audience to breathe and process in between the plot.
Here’s my favorite excerpt from the movie (SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen it, don’t watch this!)
Thanks, Mr. Ozu for another gem in your work and a delicious recipe!