04 August 2012

Deep Fry Leftover Tea

We are a household of fooders; we are too varied and sometimes too indiscriminate as eaters to be foodies.  We wouldn’t be ashamed to follow up an excellent 5-course French meal with popcorn (although at $6 Hurricane popcorn is kernel royalty).

We love fried stuff: fried chicken; fish and chips; French fries...all of these are household favorites for which a deep fryer is an indispensable appliance.  From one of our fancy meals out, we tasted the deliciousness of fried Brussels sprout leaves.

Not yummy when boiled or undercooked; bearable when sautéed and mixed with strong flavors like smoked meats, onions & garlic, peppers, etc.  Sweet and crisp when deep fried.

The catch when you deep fry many kinds of green-leafed edibles is that texture and the taste of the oil can dominate the flavor profile.  The intense flavors of basil, mint and parsley, for example, become delicate and subtle after deep frying.  Fried Brussels sprout leaves are, by comparison, almost tasteless, until you add coarse sea salt...the pink Himalayan salt or coarse fleur de sel work particularly
well.  Table salt from the blue can, lava salt, garlic salt, Lawry's seasoning salt...don't work so well.

To the list of delicious green things to deep fry we can, naturally, also add tea leaves.  The variety is seemingly endless, but in reality, I've found that only a limited subset of teas work.  Cooked pu'er and high roast teas don't turn out well.  Aged teas, thin leaf tea (some sijichun, for example), small leaf teas (dragonwell) also don’t work out.  Tea bag tea, crushed/powdered tea, kukicha...don't work, for obvious reasons.  This brings us to mainly green and light oolongs.  Of the several types of tea I've tried, Baozhong is my favorite.  The leaves are big enough, the taste is sweet, crisp & delicate, and a hint of the floral aroma remains.  I recommend using leaves that have already been brewed a few times. The flavors are more enjoyable that way and you get to enjoy the best infusions. 

Aside from using deep fried Baozhong as a garnish for various dishes, deep fried Baozhong would pair nicely with a fruit platter, an appertif or digestif, and would look great atop a few scoops of ice cream (we recommend vanilla bean).  It also tastes great on its own, and though it could benefit from a sprinkle of coarse salt, the leaves don’t need it.

When one has more leftover tea than time or interest to re-roast, we find new ways to use them.    Contemporary Baozhong, like green teas, aren't suitable for re-roasting, so finding ways to hide the off-tastes while retaining any positive flavors is the goal.  Sweetened, iced Baozhong tea, tea-based soups and other edible recipes can be good ways to use the tea.