Eggs, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee soft-boiled with some kaya toast dipped into the runny yolk. And scrambled with some herbs and melty cheese. And simply cooked over-medium in melted butter. I love eggs any way, any time of the day. One of my earliest egg-lovin' memories is eating Chinese tea eggs (cha ye dan) as a kid. They are hard boiled eggs (with the shell cracked but still in tact) soaked in a mixture of black tea and spices. When the cracked shell is peeled it reveals the smooth egg with its beautiful marbled “crazing” pattern, a bit reminiscent of those gorgeous Chinese cracked-glazed porcelains.
Tea eggs are a common street snack and even sold in convenience stores in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Most recipes will call for steeping eggs in tea and star anise, the pungent licorice-scented spice used in a lot of Chinese cooking. A basic black tea can be used for this recipe or you can even use pu-erh tea for an earthier flavor (although I'm not a big fan of pu-erh). Other ingredients can be added such as mandarin peel or sugar. There are a couple of ways to steep these eggs and I've let mine soak overnight in the mixture instead of simmering them for a few hours over the stove-top, but either method works to flavor the egg white.
- 6 eggs
- 2 bags of black tea
- 4 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/4 cup of soy sauce
Place the eggs in a pot and fill with water until just covered. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 2 minutes. Remove the eggs and lightly crack the eggs all around with the edge of a fork or knife.
Place the eggs back into the pot of water and add the tea bags, spices and soy sauce. Simmer for about 1 hour and let the mixture and eggs cool. Continue steeping the eggs overnight in the refrigerator.
Alternatively, you can simmer the eggs for about 2-3 hours instead of soaking them overnight.
(Ru ware image from here)