Chinese Tea Eggs

by Karen on Thursday, May 12, 2011

Post image for Chinese Tea Eggs

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)

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{ 36 comments }

Sarah May 12, 2011 at 8:17 am

I have wanted to try tea eggs for some time now…this seems like the perfect first step! Lovely looking eggs.

Belinda @zomppa May 12, 2011 at 9:22 am

Oh, me too. I LOVE eggs, and always love how these look. Gorgeous work!

Deana May 12, 2011 at 9:56 am

These are like beautiful little pieces of art.

Rashmi from Yumkid.com May 12, 2011 at 11:51 am

oh my god… they are soooooo beautiful. I have to make them. Your mentionned Kaya toast and now all I want is Kaya toast.

Can you make it with green tea? or rooibos tea?

Karen May 12, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Green tea is too astringent, and I think rooibos wouldn’t quite match in flavor but I’ve never seen anyone try it, so maybe? It’s best to stick with black in this dish!

O I adore kaya, mmm should make some soon…

rebecca May 12, 2011 at 2:30 pm

oh these are cool love tea and eggs cool combo

Karen May 12, 2011 at 6:35 pm

@Sarah: Hope you try them soon..
@Belinda, Deana and Rebecca: Thanks– aren’t they just gorgeous!

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen May 13, 2011 at 2:23 am

I’ve always been in awe of these, they are like little pieces of art.

abdou May 24, 2011 at 5:05 pm

me too i like it a lot ^_^

Lan May 13, 2011 at 11:20 am

this is beautiful and i was just thinking the other day about 1000day old eggs which of course freaks me out. this might be a better alternative to it! :)

Karen May 15, 2011 at 1:23 pm

haha true, thousand yr old eggs are good tho! (although they’re not that old, just preserved)

Elaine May 13, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Cute idea, did it for easter with pink and blue dye over slightly cracked hard boiled eggs. However, I would never simmer eggs for longer than 10 minutes. I can’t imagine how chewy they would be. Blech.

Karen May 15, 2011 at 1:26 pm

They’re actually not too chewy, but that’s how they’re made, so perhaps I am used it it.

justcooknyc May 14, 2011 at 7:05 pm

wow, those are so gorgeous

Alyse May 14, 2011 at 8:37 pm

So people eat these – they arent just art? What does it taste like?

beanie May 15, 2011 at 4:25 am

i too am curious to know what the flavor resembles prior to making them , but they are absolutely beautiful. initially i thought they where some form of homemade faberge eggs

Chad @ thebreakupnote May 15, 2011 at 11:09 am

That’s amazing looking – I HAVE to try it.

Karen May 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm

@ Alyse and @ beanie: Yup, definitely eaten. Flavors are very “Chinese” I suppose, if you’ve ever had anything w chinese five spice before- soy, star anise, cinnamon, very light tea flavor..
@Sylvie, JustCookNYC and Chad- thanks!

Sasha (Global Table Adventure) May 16, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Love. I told myself I would make these for Easter this year, but didn’t have the time. Maybe next year. :)

Kulsum at JourneyKitchen May 17, 2011 at 1:12 am

Ah you know I call my self adventurous eater but I have not explored much in the area of eggs. This looks SO beautiful. Thanks for introducing me to tea eggs :-)

Sasha (Global Table Adventure) May 17, 2011 at 11:50 am

Wait, wait, wait. Back up. Did you realize you got a mention in Saveur today!!! Awesome :)

Karen May 17, 2011 at 5:23 pm

I did I did! Thanks for the heads up :)

Lentil Breakdown May 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Yes, congrats on your superstardom! I always knew you rocked! : ) And about these eggs, I feel woefully ignorant (which is one of the reasons I love your blog), but I’ve never even heard of these before. I’ve been on an eggs-for-dinner kick lately, frying one up to put on top of sauteed kale or other greens. It’s really satisfying in such a simple way.

Karen May 17, 2011 at 5:24 pm

O thanks so much! I am a total eggs-for-dinner type gal– on top of sauteed greens and a little runny, mmmm

Valerie May 18, 2011 at 10:37 am

Ohhhhhh Karen you’ve outdone yourself again! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a food item so gorgeous in my life. I’ve never had these myself and I can imagine what they taste like but will have to try out this recipe to be sure. This is actually cool enough to turn me into a Martha-esque Easter egg decoratin’ kinda mama!

Em May 23, 2011 at 9:01 am

OOOh! I would love to fix these at my next dinner party, but I would want my guests to get to pull off the shell themselves and be surprised at the design on the egg white! How long can you leave them in their shell? Or do you have to just pull it off immediately to store them?

elle marie May 24, 2011 at 10:42 pm

YESSS .. I have had these.. do you know what region they are from?

Karen May 25, 2011 at 5:19 pm

They’re pretty pan-Chinese. But where they originated from? Not known…

Carly June 19, 2011 at 10:34 am

I know I am late to the party but I just found your blog. I love this recipe. It reminds me of teaching in Taiwan. I used to walk up a steep hill, weighed down by a week worth of laundry. My favourite quiet time was throwing the laundry in and blissfully reading a novel, eating two yummy tea eggs waiting for the spin cycle. I can still remember the smell and it makes my heart ache for another adventure. Maybe soon.

Kirk DTK November 10, 2011 at 8:04 am

Simmer for an hour? Won’t that over cook them and make that ugly greenish ring around the yolk?

Eric @ Eatwell101 November 27, 2011 at 11:27 am

They are so lovely! What about trying different colors?

Aiwee December 3, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Thanks for the post, I am going to make some of these eggs so my neighbours can all wonder where the smell coming from! Love the “cha ye dan”.

Kaya, would love to get the recipe. When I was a kid, always helped my grandmother stir the kaya for hours… she is not around anymore and nobody knows how she makes her kaya. Toast with kaya and butter… yum….

nicole December 4, 2011 at 10:56 am

To those who are afraid of simmering for 2-3 hours:
I too was afraid of that, but they turned out great! No, they were not chewy and yes, they do get that greyish ring, but really, that does not change the flavor at all. You can cook them the normal time and let steep in the brine overnight in the fridge…but really, who wants to wait that long? Besides, isn’t it fun to know you are using the traditional asian method? Just a thought.

Kathy Widdis February 16, 2012 at 3:40 pm

I have a feature on my blog called “What I Want to Cook” and this will definitely make the list. I have some cream Wedgewood Edme egg cups that would really make for a nice presentation at a Sunday brunch. Any thoughts on accompanying dishes?

Karen March 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Not really, this is usually eaten as a snack. maybe some cold side dishes?

Elizabeth @Mango_Queen July 16, 2012 at 3:33 pm

I just found your gorgeous site via Saveur.com. Love it ! I may stay a while and browse :-)
I’ve been searching for this chinese tea recipe ~ it’s an old tradition that I remember from so long ago. Will try yours. Thanks for sharing!

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