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Tuesday, 19 June 2012


Ochazuke -- how do you pronounce it and what in blazing saddles is this exotic dish? This is one of the most common questions we get here at Teaism, and I could probably recite the answer in my sleep: Ochazuke (or just "Chazuke,"as it is sometimes called) is a Japanese green tea and rice soup. You get a bowl with brown rice, shredded vegetables, and salmon, shrimp, or pickled plums on top. You will also get a pot of sencha, a spinachy green tea, which is meant to be poured over everything else to make the broth. Finally, you will get a little container of what we call "Ochazuke sprinkles" -- a mix of seaweed, salt, and bonito flakes (made in-house) that adds a little savory crunch to the whole concoction. The meal should look something like this when correctly prepared:

(Salmon Ochazuke pictured)

After hearing the above explanation, usually the customer says something along of the lines of "oh, how interesting!" and then orders something a little less adventurous. Not that I'm one to judge -- I've worked at Teaism for more than three months now, and had yet to try an Ochazuke. It was always too hot out for hot soup, or I wasn't in the mood, or something else on the menu was calling to me. Today, though, I decided to take the plunge and see what this dish is all about.

Despite the soaring temperatures I made myself a small salmon Ochazuke, and was pleasantly surprised by the results. The flavors of the salmon, rice, and sencha combine well to form a light tasty soup. This makes sense, since the Japanese often used the dish as a delicious way to combine leftovers, a late-night snack, and even as a hangover cure. The overall effect is refreshing, without being over-bearing -- I can see how Ochazuke could be a nice hangover cure. It's warm and hearty, with a much more delicate flavor balance than I had anticipated. I am ready to admit that I was wrong in avoiding this dish for so long -- it definitely has a lot to offer, and I can see why it has such loyal devotees. So next time you come to Teaism, consider trying something a little different -- you won't regret it!

Oh and the correct pronunciation is something like this: oh-cha-zoo-key, from the Japanese for tea - cha and tsuke - to submerge. 

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