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A World of Tea (continued)

Introduction | Cultivating | Brewing and Drinking
Types of Tea | Cooking with Tea | Tea Recipes

Tea Recipes

Here are some recipes from an article I wrote for Nha Magazine in June 2003.

Jasmine Tea Syrup

Tea leaves turn simple sugar syrup into a special treat. It’s versatile and easy to make, so keep some on hand for glazing roast chicken, stirring into lemonade, drizzling over fresh melon slices, topping vanilla or ginger ice cream, or poaching apricots and pears.

Makes about 1 ¼ cups.

  1. 2 teaspoons loose-leaf jasmine tea
    1 cup sugar
    1 tablespoon light corn syrup

  2. 1.In a cup, steep the tea in ½ cup hot water

  3. 2.Strain the brewed tea through a very fine sieve or a dampened paper coffee filter into a small saucepan. Stir in the sugar and corn syrup. Bring to syrup to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Continue cooking for 3 minutes.

  4. 3.Let the syrup cool completely. Store in a glass container in the refrigerator.

Earl Grey-Peach Ice Cream

Earl Grey is flavored with the oils extracted from the peel of the bergamot orange, a small, pear-shaped citrus fruit believed to be a cultivar of the sour orange native to Vietnam. Its floral tones complement the fragrant sweetness of the peaches while the tea’s tannin adds depth. This is a very simple recipe for making ice cream in a flash with a food processor. Freeze the best of summer’s ripe peaches, peeled and sliced, or take a convenient shortcut with the already frozen peaches found in major supermarkets.

Makes about 1 ½ pints.

  1. ½ cup milk
    1 teaspoon loose-leaf or 2 bags Earl Grey tea
    3 cups frozen peach slices
    ⅓ cup sugar
    1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

  2. 1.In a small pan, bring the milk just to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the tea. Let loose-leaf tea steep for 5 minutes, tea bags for 3 minutes. Strain the tea through damp coffee filter or paper towel. Let cool completely.

  3. 2.Combine the peaches, sugar and lemon juice in the food processor. (See note below.) While running the machine, drizzle in the milk-tea mixture and continue processing until the ice cream is smooth. Stop the machine occasionally to scrape down and stir the peaches. If needed, drizzle in an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk, but resist adding any more. The ice cream may take 30 seconds to come together, and too much liquid will create a slushy texture. If desired, you can leave small chunks of fruit for color, texture and flavor.

  4. 3.For a soft, silky ice cream, serve immediately. For a firmer, denser ice cream, you can “cure” it like professionals do: transfer it to a container, cover and freeze for 2 to 4 hours.

Note: For the best results, chill the work bowl and blade of your food processor in the freezer for 30 minutes.


When heated with sugar and rice, tea leaves release a fragrant smoke that adds rich color and flavor to food. Tea-smoking is a simple technique and requires very little equipment. A large pan with a tight cover, a rack and some foil are all you will need. Food arranged on the rack and sealed inside the pan will take on a gentle smokiness as the dried ingredients smolder.

Once you’ve perfected the technique, experiment with different teas and spices for an endless variety of flavor. Black teas perfumed with rose or lychee, dried orange peels, candied ginger, Sichuan peppercorns, cloves, cassia and cinnamon are just some of the ingredients you can add to the smoking mixture.

Since the smoke will affect the patina of a well-seasoned pan, be sure not to use your prized wok for smoking. An old, cheap wok or a large stockpot or Dutch oven is ideal. Asian markets sell special folding grid racks or round racks with legs, but any rack that fits inside your pan will work.

The food should rest at least 3 inches above the smoking mixture. If needed, you can lift a rack up on 3 or 4 short, empty cans. Be sure to remove both ends of the cans to allow the smoke to rise evenly.

During the summer, try tea-smoking in your backyard grill for an easy but elegant meal. Line your grill’s wood-chip pan with foil or use a small, disposable pie pan. Smoke the food with indirect heat first: pile all the coals on one side of your grill or use only one set of gas burners for the smoking mixture, then place the food on the other side. After smoking, grill the food directly over the hot coals or high heat for a crisp finish.

Tea-Smoked Quail

The traditional Chinese tea-smoking technique involves steaming, air-drying, deep-frying and then smoking. This streamlined version, however, is perfect for foods that cook quickly, such as salmon fillets (keep the skin on for better flavor and easier handling), pompano, large shrimp, chicken breasts and quail.

Makes 4 entrée or 8 appetizer servings.

  1. 3 tablespoons kosher salt
    1 ½ tablespoons whole Sichuan peppercorns
    4 quail, halved lengthwise
    4 skewers, soaked in water 1 hour

  2. Smoking mixture:
    ¼ cup loose tea leaves
    ¼ cup brown sugar
    ¼ cup raw rice
    1 cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces
    6 star anise, broken into small pieces

  3. ½ teaspoon sesame oil
    Lime wedges

  4. 1.In a small skillet, combine the salt and Sichuan peppercorns. Toast over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant. Let cool, then grind coarsely in a mortar and pestle, spice grinder or pepper mill. Set aside half of this pepper-salt mix for dipping at the table.

  5. 2.Rub the quail well with the remaining half of the pepper-salt. Thread them on the skewers and set aside.

  6. 3.To set up the smoking pan: Line a wok or Dutch oven with aluminum foil, shiny side up, using 1 layer of heavy-duty foil or 2 layers of regular foil. Sprinkle the smoking mixture evenly in the bottom of the pan and place a steamer rack at the center. Line the lid with foil.

  7. 4.Place the prepared pan over high heat. (See note below.) When thin tendrils of smoke begin rising, arrange the quail on the rack, with their skin side down. Cover the pan tightly, sealing the edge of the lid with a strip of foil if needed, lower the heat to medium-low and smoke the quail for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the quail rest, without opening the pan, for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.

  8. 5.Remove the pan’s lid and check that the quail are colored deep amber to mahogany. If not, repeat the smoking for another 2 to 3 minutes. Coat the quail lightly with sesame oil. Transfer them to the broiler, skin side up, and broil for 4 to 5 minutes.

  9. 6.Remove the quail from the skewers. Serve them with lime wedges and the reserved pepper-salt in small bowls for dipping.

Note:  Open all the windows and unplug your smoke detector. To rid your kitchen of any lingering smoke smells, simmer a mixture of water and white vinegar for 10 minutes, adding whole cloves or orange peel, if desired. 

January 2008