Brown rice and green tea porridge (genmai chagayu)

genmai-chagayu.jpgA traditional custom in Japan is to eat nanakusa gayu, or seven greens rice porridge, after the New Year's feasting period, to rest the stomach and bring the body back into balance. At any time of the year, kayu or okayu are eaten when the body is weakened by sickness, fatigue or overeating.

Chagayu or tea rice porridge is a speciality of the ancient city of Nara and the surrounding area. (Nara was briefly the capital of Japan in the 8th century A.D., and is one of the most historical cities in the country). Chagayu is usually made with white rice, but I used brown rice (genmai) instead, plus a small amount of firm green puy lentils from France. The lentils are not traditional, but I like the contrasting texture.

This has been my breakfast for about a week now. It's not in the same category as eggs and bacon or a stack of pancakes, but I find my body needs something like this sometimes to bring it back into balance. It's filling and warming, yet feels very cleansing to the body. A cup of this has less than 100 calories, and is high in fiber.

The fragrance of the tea is wonderful as you inhale the warm vapors rising up from the bowl.

This is not the same thing as ochazuke by the way, since the rice is cooked with tea.

Brown rice and tea porridge with green lentils (renzu mame iri genmai chagayu)

This amount makes 5-6 cups of kayu. Just store in the refrigerator and heat up in the morning.

  • 1 cup (220ml) short grain brown rice
  • 1/4 cup firm green or brown lentils; puy lentils are best. Don't use red lentils, which will turn into mush. You can omit this if you like.
  • 3 green tea bags - use bancha, kukicha or ho-ji cha. No need to use expensive tea here. (In Nara they usually use bancha.) If you don't have tea bags, use about 1 heaping tablespoonful of green tea in a tea ball or a piece of cheesecloth. (Hint: tea bags are the easiest!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Water

Rinse the brown rice in cold water. Put in a heavy pan with 6 cups of water and the salt. Bring up to a boil, then lower the heat to low (it should barely simmer) and add the tea bags and lentils. Put on a lid and let slowly simmer for about an hour or more. (You can do this in a slow cooker.) Stir occasionally.

Take out the tea bags. If the consistency seems too watery to you, turn up the heat a tiny bit and simmer with the lid off, to allow some of the water to evaporate.

You can eat this as is, for a very subtly flavored porridge. You may want to add something salty to it like umeboshi (as pictured), furikake (maybe a homemade one), gomashio (sesame seed and salt), or just some plain sea salt.


It's more traditional to brew the tea first, cool it then cool the rice in the tea. I find that just throwing in the tea bags is easier (and it doesn't get bitter).

Leftover kayu stored in the refrigerator will get a little gluey. If it thickens up too much, add a little bit of water before heating up.

You could also add some greens to it and simmer a little bit more - try spinach, komatsuna, turnip greens, and so on. (Actually, one of the tastier toppings is well drained and crumbled bacon...and it doesn't make it that unhealthy. :))

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Filed under:  japanese lighter rice tea vegan

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I remember when my mom used to make okayu with egg for us whenever we got sick with a subtle variation of substituting chicken broth or consomme for water (and obviously, not adding any additional salt). It's definitely on my top ten list of comfort foods. I still make it, complete with umeboshi, when I'm feeling under the weather. It really is very soothing. I'm going to have to try this recipe. It looks really tasty!

thnxs the recipe is lovely i tried it without lentils and I loved it....keep writing..

Hi M,
Loving this dish, I will make it this morning.



My grandmother used to make this all the time. I've never seen anyone else make it since and always wondered why people call "tea-rice" ochazuke and not ochagai (baby-talk for chagayu, I guess). A long while back I tried making it myself, but failed. Thanks so much for the recipe and for stirring up very good memories of my grandmother.

I made this in our rice cooker with 3 bags of green tea and it was yummy! I sprinkled some of the ... oh gosh, now I can't remember what it's called and I'm not in the kitchen right now... furokake? It had shaved bonito and black sesame seeds and added just the right touch of savory. I also added a small piece of wakame to the pot during cooking.

Lovely! I've just moved to Japan, and, despite not being able to decipher the labels/instructions on food/rice cookers etc, am trying my best to eat traditional Japanese food. My rice cooker doesn't have a brown rice setting tho - what does anyone recommend? Thanks! x

thegranolagirl, soaking the brown rice for some time (e.g. overnight) works for a lot of people - you can then just cook it with the regular setting in your cooker.

Loved to see this recipe online - very few people outside of Japan actually know about this recipe. When I lived in Japan, I used to have this served when I was sick. My host mother used to tell me that it was a traditional "sick-pill". I have never seen this with lentils or brown rice though. I use white rice, no lentils and brew the green tea first. Thanks for sharing this!


Thanks for this recipe. I've just gotten back from London, where I caught a cold, and the thought of eating anything just made me feel ill. I have a tendency to do rice dishes when I feel sick or under the weather, so decided to have a shot at this.

I may need to experiment a bit -- whether because of my cold, or simply just needing to twiddle with how I cook a bit, I couldn't actually taste much. I'll definitely be trying this again, though: I feel a bit better for having eaten this. Thank you again so much.

it does have a very subtle flavor. If you want to make the tea more pronounced, try adding a bit more. Adding the umeboshi, or even some furikake or sea salt, would be good too. But it is meant to be very simple, something that can be eaten when you're sick or hung over etc :)

I love okayu, and eat it almost everday. I have to say, using brown rice is worth the extra time both to th flavor of the okayu and to you health. When I practiced at a zen temple we ate brown rice okayu every morning, and I never felt healthier. This variation seems good, and I cant wait to try it. thanks!

my rice cooker has an "okayu" and a genmai setting..which should I use? Also, do I throw the green tea bags in directly with the rice and let it cook?

Maki, one quick question -- you note that you can store leftovers in the fridge; how long would it keep for, and any tips for heating it up (e.g., can it be microwaved)?

Thank you so much for the recipe.
I have recently decided to eat more unrefined foods in general. I do love Japanese food and I can't wait to try this recipe.
Thanks again.

Hi Maki, thanks so much for this wonderful recipe! I just have one question in regards to the type of rice used. I recent found this quick cooking brown rice that cooks in 15 mins. Do you think I could still use it in this recipe if I just lessened the cooking time some?

Hmm, generally I am anti-quick cook rice, but since I'm not familiar with the rice you have, I guess all I can suggest is - try it out :)

Wow! Wish my rice cooker had that setting...I'll try the old fashioned way. I've been buying instant kayu for $3 a cup...

Silly question. If I were to substitute the green tea bags with a different tea, which would you recommend?

I just made this and it was really yummy in the slow cooker but because i didnt have green tea bags I brewed the tea first and cooked it in the slow cooker. I also substituted the lentils for quinoa and added some spinach very very nice with a touch of soy and red vinegar.

did that one too! It was great! tasty filling and healthy. only not watery enough - since my gas range is too strong (the weaker flames don't work in my apparent!)
I'll just add more liquids next time :)