Getting Creative with Houjicha - Start Cooking With Tea
BBQ / Entree
What is Houjicha?
Houjicha is a Japanese tea, and despite the fact its leaves are brown, it is technically a green tea. The leaves turn brown because they are roasted in a ceramic pot at high temperatures. (Houjicha translates to pan-fried, or roasted).
Cooking with Tea
Like all teas, you can drink Houjicha hot, iced, or as a latte. However, if you want to get creative and pull off a gourmet recipe to impress all your friends, you can try cooking with tea.
When I say cooking with tea, I don’t mean boiling some tea into some milk and baking with it. I mean Crockpot Houjicha Barbacoa. I cooked my barbacoa overnight for 12 hours, so using a crockpot was the easiest method. You can make this recipe in an oven, but it gets a lot more complicated. (You’ll need to wrap the meat in banana leaves or parchment paper, prop it up on a grill rack or ramekins in a deep baking dish, and put water in the baking dish so that it won’t dry out).
4 Teaspoons of Houjicha
Your meat of choice (leg of lamb is traditional, but a pork shoulder, or a beef roast work great!)
2-3 ancho peppers (they’re a mild chili, but if you’re spice sensitive, remove the seeds)
4 cloves of garlic (or 3 teaspoons of jarred, minced, garlic)
5 whole allspice berries
1 ½ star anise pod
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
½ a cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ cups of water
1 tablespoon oil (I recommend extra virgin olive oil)
(Optional) ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
Making the Adobo Marinade: soak the ancho peppers in hot water for 10 minutes, or until soft.
While you wait for the ancho peppers to soften, brew 1 ½ cups of Houjicha tea (brew 12 ounces of boiling water and add the 4 teaspoons of Houjicha). The ratio of tea to water is higher than we would recommend for a standard cup of tea (normally it would be 1 teaspoon to 8 ounces of water). Let the tea steep for no more than 3 minutes to avoid imparting a bitter flavor in the barbacoa.
Start up a cast iron or any pan that can handle cooking to a high heat. If you’re using jarred garlic instead of raw garlic cloves, add your teaspoons of pre-minced garlic to the pan with 1 tablespoon of oil. Cook the garlic until lightly golden, then sear your meat on all sides (about 30 seconds each), dropping all contents from the pan straight into the crockpot.
Drain the ancho peppers that have been softening (and seed them at this point if you don’t want the seeds) and blend them with the 1 ½ cups of Houjicha tea. Add in the allspice, ½ pod of star anise (you’ll reserve 1 star for later), cumin, smoked paprika (if using) pepper, and salt (also the garlic if you are using raw cloves of garlic instead of pre-minced jarred garlic).
Baste/brush the meat with the Adobo Marinade you made in step 4 and pour the rest of the marinade over it, allowing it to pool around the sides.
Place the reserved 1 star anise, ½ cinnamon stick, and 3 cloves into or around the meat.
Set your Crockpot to low and have the meat cook in the marinade overnight.
(Optional) In the morning, switch to high for 1 hour and enjoy plain, over rice, or as tacos!
I cooked my version of the barbacoa using pork shoulder and let it cook for 12 hours. I specifically brew the houjicha and blend it as part of the marinade instead of putting it in tea bags and using it like you would a bay leaf because letting it steep for 12 hours would make it and the meat bitter.
I also made sure that when I used the jarred, pre-minced garlic, I roasted it in my cast iron with the oil to get the sour taste out of it (jarred garlic is necessarily marinated/preserved and this step helps it to taste more like raw garlic without all the chopping). The Houjicha already imparts a bit of a subtle smoky flavor to the meat, but as a fan of barbecue, I also added a tiny bit of smoked paprika to bring it out even more.
This method helped my husband enjoy the barbacoa a lot more than traditional barbacoa, which has a little too strong of an anise taste to him. When the Houjicha is added, the green tea tames some of the stronger flavors (like anise and cloves), while still letting the flavors be present. The tea also helped the flavors to blend a lot better than they otherwise do in a standard barbacoa. All in all, I highly recommend this green tea barbacoa as an addition to your go-to crockpot recipes.
One sample tin of Houjicha is all you would need to pull off this recipe and have enough left over to try a cup or two on its own.