Tea smoking is a ancient Chinese cooking technique from the Sichuan region that delicately infuses flavor into food with a whisper of smokiness and cooks it at the same time. It sounds complicated, but it is easier than you think!
The key to the smoking process are the tea smoking packets that generate the flavored smoke. These are made up of equal parts of tea-leaves and uncooked rice with brown sugar and spices. These ingredients are then wrapped in foil and simply placed under the grill grate or directly on the hot coals - then you just close the lid and let the smoke do its magic.
Packet Ingredients For Tea Smoking
There are special aromatic ingredients to include in your tea packets this adds extra complexity and flavor to your food. These are made up of equal parts of tea-leaves and uncooked rice with brown sugar and spices. The sugar component is used to speed up the smoking process and caramelize the ingredients - not for sweetness!
You can experiment with a wide range of different tea flavors such as black, green, jasmine, Earl Grey, oolong or lap sang souchong tea.
Some spices and other ingredients you can use to flavor food are: star anise, peppercorns, sichuan peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cumin seed, fennel seed, coriander seed, citrus rind and ginger.
How To Prepare Your Barbecue
Prepare a medium-high gas or charcoal grill fire. Clean and oil the grill grate; set aside. Set the tea-smoking packet directly on the hot coals or on top of a metal burner shield. Put the grate back on the grill and close the lid. On a charcoal grill, leave the vents partially open and wait for smoke to rise from the vents. On a gas grill, wait 10 minutes, then open the lid to check for smoke. If there is none, close the lid and check again in a few minutes.
What Food Is Best For Tea Smoking?
There's a great range of foods you can prepare using this unique tea smoking cooking technique. Some of my favorites are:
- Pork tenderloin, pork ribs
- Seafood - salmon, trout, prawns, calamari, oysters and mussels
- Vegetables - tomatoes, mushrooms and even tofu
Looking for some inspiration in creating your own tea smoking packets? This short video features Robert Danhi, author of Southeast Asian Flavors, making tea-smoking packets for smoked salmon on a charcoal grill and smoked shrimp on a gas grill.
Stay tuned for my exotic new recipe using this tea smoking technique ...