Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sunday is made for genmai-cha

Today I got an email from the editor of the Shofar, an Iranian Jewish quarterly that my dad has a hand in publishing. She wants me to contribute something to their winter issue, which is very exciting. I started to reply, but quickly realized it's not going to be a one-liner. I put on some hot water, and pulled out a couple cookbooks. It was time to do some research.

Let's face it: this isn't a coffee home. The coffee I make in my little French press never comes out as good as I'd like, and the stupid Senseo I got for 'free' is a swill-machine that ust takes up precious counter space. We do tea really well though. Today was the day for genmai-cha: a nutty-tasting Japanese blend of green tea and toasted brown rice. I have a fancy tin of the stuff I was given as a gift -- really great tea from an Australian company called Tease. Perfect after a night of over-imbibing, I boiled some water and poured it directly over the leaves. I'm always skeptical that the leaves, toasted rice grains, and twiggy bits will actually settle to the bottom and let me drink in peace, but they always do.

Then began the 'quick reply', which was in fact a deliciously satisfying archaeological dig through many topics and many media, just what I love. Pore through old interviews from the cookbook, looking for Hanukkah-related recipes. There are none. Find an old sufganiyot recipe, get reminded of its symbolism -- doughnuts fried in oil to symbolize the ancient miracle of one day's oil lasting eight days. Take a couple sips, burn tongue, call Violet and Saeed to ask if there are any Persian fritters that would be suitable for Hanukkah. Settle into bed a little deeper. Find the recipe for zoloubia -- fried funnel-cake-like sweets doused generously in a honey syrup, in Najmieh Batmanglij's New Food of Life. Hmm. Kind of a stretch though. Ooh, there's a page on the winter solstice feast. Carrot brownies? Fascinating. Whoa, carrot pudding. Saffron pudding. Crap, I digress.

Pour more hot water over the now-soggy leaves. Pull out my beloved Book of Jewish Food; consult. Claudia Roden has never let me down, and once again, she holds the answer: apparently Egyptian Jews eat fritters called 'zalabia' at Hanukkah time. Zoloubia is not a stretch at all. (And for Russian Hanukkah, you douse a sugarcube with brandy, set it on fire, and throw it in your tea. Not even remotely relevant, but rad!).

It comes to this: All I want to do is sit on my bed and read Claudia Roden and write and pour glass after glass over my soggy tea leaves, but alas, errands call. All I did was answer one email. How is it already noon?!


  1. very cozy sounding, all of this.

  2. Hi Tannaz,

    I love Genmai Cha! :) If you enjoy Japanese Green Teas in general, check out the local Mitsuwa Markets and stop by the Yamamoto Yama Tea Counters (there's one at the Torrance Mitsuwa and Costa Mesa branch for sure). Some suggestions would be:

    * Kagoshima Fresh Green Tea Leaves
    * Sayama Fresh Green Tea Leaves

    Both of them (and 6 other Prefectures of Japanese Tea) are sold in nice packets for about ~$10 each. :) (BTW, "no" I don't work for them, just thought you might be interested in other Japanese Teas as well.) (^_~)

  3. you know, heather, it was pretty cozy. as the weather gets colder, i'm thinking lots more of tea and blankets and poring through cookbooks. maybe it's a seasonal thing?

    and exile kiss, thank you for these wonderful tea tips! i don't think the west la mitsuwa has a YamamotoYama counter, not sure about little tokyo, but i'll have to check it out one of these days. it's been way, WAY too long since i've had santouka ramen anyway! i'll have to try these fresh japanese green teas - more to add to the collection...

  4. Hi Tannaz,

    No problem. :) Please let us know if you end up trying any of those new Green Teas (curious about your impressions of them :).

    And Santouka is great! I may have found a new Ramen restaurant worth trying, but I need to get in a few repeat visits to make sure it's good. Stay tuned. :)