Green tea soup – ochazuke – is one of my favourite Japanese dishes. Traditionally, it is served with rice and salted fish (usually salmon) as well as nori or another type of sea vegetable. Ochazuke is a kind of un-cooking. You prepare the elements in advance but then it all comes together at the last in a haphazard way. Pouring over the hot green tea takes care of the cooking of the vegetables, but it isn’t an exact science. A little more of this, a little less of that.
I like the idea of un-cooking. Mostly, I suppose, because it echoes my style of cooking. I seem to have a complete inability to follow a recipe to the letter. Even my own recipes! Unless I’m developing a recipe for the blog (or baking), I rarely use measuring cups or spoons, preferring instead to eyeball the amounts. And I’m always tempted to add chilli, some green veges, extra spices, a handful of herbs, or just a little sumthin’ sumthin’ to make the recipe my own. The beauty of un-cooking is that it teaches you to cook by the seat of your pants, to improvise, to mix shit up.
With that in mind, this Green Tea Soup can be easily adapted. Throw in some snowpeas, or broccoli, if you fancy a little green crunch. Maybe some thinly sliced kale. If you can’t get your hands on a daikon, replace with radish. Likewise, the wakame can be replaced with strips of nori. And if you find the flavour too mild, drizzle over some soy or tamari, or even stir through a dollop of miso. The key to keeping with the flavour profile is to compliment the green tea with something salty – roasted eggplant, in the case of this soup – and something from the ocean.
Just a quick note on brewing tea. Before steeping the leaves, you should let the boiled water cool ever so slightly so that you don’t burn the leaves. This will also ensure the complex notes of the tea aren’t overpowered by the bitter notes. And as for choosing your green tea? Always choose a high quality (preferably organic) leaf. And for this particular soup, go with a Japanese green tea – it is, after all, a Japanese-inspired soup.
Green Tea Soup with Roasted Eggplant
1 small daikon
1 spring onion
90 grams soba noodles
12 shitake mushrooms
2 Japanese eggplants
Handful of wakame (sea vegetable)
4 cups water
3 teaspoons loose leaf green tea
Sesame oil, to cook
Salt & pepper, to cook
Preheat oven to 200° celsius/400° fahrenheit. Top and tail the eggplants and cut into rounds approx. 2 cm thick. Halve each round then toss them in a bowl together with a generous amount of salt, pepper, and sesame oil. Lay the half-rounds in a single layer on a baking tray and roast for 25 minutes or until nicely browned, turning halfway through.
Soak the shitake mushrooms in a bowl of boiling water for 20 – 30 minutes. Drain the water and slice the shitake into strips.
Cook the soba noodles according to the instructions on the packet. Drain and set aside.
Use a mandoline to finely slice the carrot and the daikon into rounds. Chop up the spring onion, both the white and green parts, with a sharp knife.
Boil the 4 cups of water and brew the green tea, steeping the leaves for approx. 3 – 4 minutes, then straining.
When you’re ready to eat, divide the vegetables and noodles between two bowls, adding the strained green tea over the top. Top each bowl with the seaweed and roasted eggplant.
Drizzle with a touch of sesame oil, and enjoy immediately!