Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Hakka's Lui Char (Vegetarian Rice with Herbal Soup)

(Source :

Han Suyin wrote one of the best descriptions in the English Language about the origin and spread of the Hakkas in her book "The Crippled Tree" and I never forget her words. I read her book as a recommendated text for my sixth form history and was very inspired by her as a writer.

When I moved to Miri some twenty years ago I lived amongst the Hakkas and developed greater insights about their life and espcially their cuisine. Lui Char is a signature dish and delicacy of the Hakka people usually served on the first day of their Chinese New Year to visitors for CNY open house and other religious obervation days. But it is a must for Hakkas and their family members to eat 7 kinds of vegetables on the 7th day of the Chinese New Year.

The Buddhist/Tua Pek Kong vegetarian-inclined Hakkas relish this dish. Some very strict Buddhists would have only this dish on the first and fifteenth of the Lunar month regularly. But I think different Hakkas in different regions of Asia would have a different approach to the serving of this dish at home.

Now that Lui Char has become a commercial item like KFC and Pizza some stalls only serve Lui Char as a flourishing business wherever there is a strong community of Hakkas. So it is quite recognisable that there is a big pupulation of Hakkas around when you notice a Lui Char stall. You can be assured that information of the Hakka people in that particular area if you start with a bowl of Lui Char.

This is a bowl of rice topped with the selected vegetables. You can call for your choice of vegetables or choose all (for the price of RM3.50 only)

This are three of the vegetables you can get besides roasted peanuts and fried salted radish - stir fried curly vegetables stir fried long beans and stir fried ok choy.

This is Koo Lay Sim a Chinese herbal plant which forms part of the soup for Lui Char

This is peppermint of Po Hor.

And this is Ngiah (which can get rid of wind in your body)

Blend all the three herbs you get a greenish paste which is boiled into a herbal soup which is cooling and nourishing. Besides it dispels of lot of toxin in your body.

The Hakkas and generally most Chinese who love the Lui Char believe that eating this lui char for lunch especially two or three times a week is a great de-tox dietary choice.

This New Cafe in Miri which serves Lui Char has been around for more than 20 years and it is a group of lovely ladies who prepare and cook and serve all the food. A remarkable lovely Iban lady who has grown "old" with them speaks Hakka serves the drinks with great cheerfulness and understanding. She has excellent eye contact and a fast way of assessing the cutomers' needs and in fact sizing up the whole afternoon's meal needs in a few seconds. The whole New Cafe outfit usually makes my afternoon sojourn in the shop very worthwhile in a very family way. Sometimes the very interesting social interaction there becomes remarkably therapeutic even before the meal is completed as you watch how the diners feel good and greet the serving ladies and the towkay neo and exchange well wishes and commonalities. Hakka bantering can be the most amusing of conversation.

You do not need to use a social survey form to find out how popular this cafe is.

My family and I have adopted this dish very positively. I have a liking for it and will try if I have the time and opportunity to eat it at least twice a week. The more one eats it the more one loves it.

6 memories:

justin said...

Nice of you to write about Lui Char - one of my favourite delicacies.
May be you should feature the photos of the lovely ladies who prepare the nice lui char at New Cafe.

sarawakiana said...

Thanks for visiting Justin.
I am sure you are very fond of Lui Char as most of us....Hope this delicacy will not disappear.

catherine said...

This is really a good article in English and for those who can read English only.
thanks. Got to know all the vegetables from your post. Otherwise I would not what is in my soup!!

chung said...

Wow nice to read about Lui Char on your blog!!
Whenever I travel outside of South East Asia I yearn for this delicacy.
Back home in Miri we usually eat in this New Cafe. My family does not usually cook it as not everyone especially the children can eat it.

We have to train our kids to eat this delicacy before they forget their roots!

Just a Little Kindness said...

After reading about lui char I suddenly remember there is this dish. I have not eaten it for a long time!!
Thanks for reminding me. Must make a special trip to Miri Town.

sarawakiana said...

Hope you have a nice meal there!


web statistics