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Thursday, September 24, 2009

My Personal Ingredient

I love the show Top Chef and really enjoyed the Top Chef Masters series. Not that I’d ever want to be on a competitive cooking show, but I do have fun watching others compete. As the seasons have gone on, the competitors have gotten crazier and more unique, which is fun to watch too. I especially love it when the chefs whip out personal/secret ingredients that are usually saved for the finale. I wish the editing would focus a bit more on the neat little secrets chefs have, but I suppose it wouldn’t make for incredibly suspenseful television for the average viewer.

If I were on Top Chef, one of my personal/secret ingredients would have to be this:

It looks like ordinary tea, but it’s not. Nope, it’s smoke tea and has a wonderful earthy aroma of smoke that is created by smoking the tea leaves over a pine fire. It is also known as Lapsang Souchong. I first discovered smoke tea while in Seattle. While walking by the Vital Tea Leaf, my eyes immediately focused in one single jar. It was labeled “smoke tea”. Leaving Ryan to continue walking down the street, I walked in and pointed to the jar. I just had to find out what it was all about. One sniff and I was hooked. It reminded me of sitting around a campfire, smoky and fragrant; I knew this tea would replace liquid smoke in my cooking instantly.

My favorite use for smoke tea is to flavor tempeh in TLT’s. It gives the tempeh a true smoked flavor that I completely enjoy. Simply pour boiling water over the smoke tea leaves, let steep for five minutes and use the liquid instead of liquid smoke in your marinade. If you want to concentrate the flavor, boil the liquid down and use that for a fuller flavor. I have even thrown a pinch of tea leaves in a tofu dish to give it a grilled smoky taste.

Maybe someday, a Top Chef will pull out smoke tea as their secret ingredient. If that happens, you know I will jump up and give a high five to the TV…or fall out of my chair in disbelief. I guess we’ll just have to wait until that moment, won’t we?

This entry has been a contribution to Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays.


  1. I love drinking lapsang souchong, but have never thought to smoke food with it- awesome idea!

  2. I love smoked tea - but like the previous commenter, I'd never thought to flavor foods with it. What a great idea.

  3. That sandwich looks delicious. What is it?


  4. That is so cool! I had no idea there was a smoke tea.

  5. I've never heard of such a thing! Too bad I have a huge bottle of liquid smoke in my pantry . . . in five years when I use it up, will you remind me to buy some smoke tea? :)

  6. Really interesting. I love hot tea, but haven't tried smoked tea. I will have to look for it.

  7. If you like that, you should try a Rauchbier - it's equally as stimulating.

  8. Oh, I love this idea! What a perfect secret ingredient. And what a great addition to tempeh or tofu recipes.... brilliant! So glad you pulled this out of your pocket and shared.

  9. Bazu, Jenny, and Kari - Sounds like I need to try drinking it. I guess I immediately thought of the food uses!

    Amber - it's a veggie version of a BLT, so tempeh, lettuce, tomato with some avocado too.

    Anon - I love smoked tequila (mezcal), so I'd probably LOVE Rauchbier. Thanks for the suggestion.


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