In the past, we have written about a very popular Japanese concept mottainai. Literally translated as “what a waste!” it is actually more of a life philosophy. Following the philosophy of mottainai, we make sure that everything gets used to the fullest. Nothing gets wasted. Perhaps, this is where Japanese green tea over rice comes in, otherwise known as Ochazuke.
What Is Ochazuke?
Ochazuke literally translates as “submerged in tea.” It is a very popular Japanese comfort food, where Japanese tea gets poured over a bowl of rice. It’s a quick and healthy dish, so many people enjoy it when they are in a rush or simply when they want something tasty and comforting. For many non-Japanese people, the concept of pouring tea over rice may seem odd at first. Let’s take a look at where this dish initially comes from.
The History Of Ochazuke
It is said that a dish similar to Ochazuke has been enjoyed in Japan as far back as the Heian period (794-1185). Back then, it was called Yuzuke, which actually just means “submerged in hot water” — hot water poured over cooked rice. Most likely, it was a way of salvaging older, stale rice. During the Edo Period (1603–1867), when tea became more widespread, pouring tea over the rice became a popular dish to replace Yuzuke. Nowadays, Ochazuke is commonly made with either tea, fish broth, or simply boiled water. Although as the name suggests, tea is the most common version of the dish.
Tea In Food
Tea is not uncommon in food. Since the origin of tea, this plant was used as a foodstuff more so than the delicious, delicate beverage we know it as today. In China, tea leaves were used in medicine and porridge. In fact, Chinese tea porridge is still quite common to this day in certain minority groups around the country.
Furthermore, there are tea leaves in ponzu, a common side dish in Japan, and various tea leaf salads across South East Asian countries. And as we all know, Japanese matcha powder is a recurring staple ingredient in food and desserts around Japan. But back to Ochazuke.
Where To Eat Ochazuke
Sure, Ochazuke is not as popular as ramen or sushi, but it is still a dish that most people know and love. People usually eat it as a snack when they feel peckish or when they want something comforting, not as a meal. You can try it in many izakayas (bars) around Japan, where it is usually ordered as the last dish. It’s also common to buy instant ochazuke packets. You can find them in most Japanese supermarkets abroad and definitely in every convenience store in Japan. But for a more refined taste, we suggest preparing it at home from scratch! Considering how simple it is to make, there’s no reason not to try it. Plus, it’s a nifty way to reheat leftover rice.
Cook some short-grain Japanese rice or use some leftover rice.
*We don't recommend using long-grain rice. The straches in short-grain rice help tie the dish together.
Prepare your toppings.
You can get creative! Some of the most popular options in Japan include pickled plum, grilled or raw salmon, grilled eel, egg, or simply some scallions, seaweed, or furikake.
Place rice in a bowl, cover with your desired toppings, and lastly, gently pour the freshly brewed hot sencha green tea over the rice.
- Wait a couple of moments for the rice to absorb the green tea.
The flavor of green tea over rice is so comforting for many Japanese people. It is an ideal dish to have on an upset stomach, when you are feeling sick, or when you have a hangover. Both green tea and rice are known to help with nausea and sickness, so as long as you omit the heavier toppings, it’s a great dish to try when you’re under the weather.
Which Tea Should I Use For Ochazuke?
The most typical version of ochazuke is made with sencha, Japanese green tea. However, you can be as creative with the tea as you are with the toppings! Other common variations include genmaicha, hojicha, even gyokuro if you want to try something with deeper umami. Japanese teas pair well with this dish since they have a slightly toasted and grassy quality and even a subtle seaweed taste.
Oolongs, Chinese green teas, and raw pu-erh might also add an unusual twist to the dish. However, floral teas, black teas, or ripe pu-erh probably wouldn’t fare as well.
When you brew your tea of choice, be very careful of the brewing time, tea leaf ratio, and water temperature (read more). Strong, over-brewed teas indeed won’t pair well with this dish.
This is an excellent dish to use up any leftover tea you may have in your cupboard. As long as the tea still tastes good, go ahead and use it. After all, tea is the star of the show here, but it doesn’t have to be ceremonial or guest receiving quality.