notes from maggie's farm
Chinese tea eggs are a common snack, found in street-side stalls, convenient stores, and home kitchens all over the country. They are a popular and economical snack, eaten warm or cold, at a table, or on the go. They are especially popular, here in America, and abroad, during the Chinese New Year celebration, signifying wealth, prosperity, and fertility.
They are quite simple to make. Tea eggs are traditionally made with Pu-erh tea, and are simmered, after boiling, in the seasoned tea for a few hours. This makes an egg with a yolk cooked harder than we prefer, and with a bit of a musty taste, due to the type of tea. We wanted to play around with the recipe, and put our own touch on it, so we took a few liberties with spice mixture and tea variety, as well as adjusting cooking times and methods. We even chose to use a few duck eggs in the mix, and they had the richest yolks of all, though they did not marble as well, due to their thicker membranes.
Our eggs did come out differently, and we were delighted with the results--so much so that we ate them all in one sitting. The marbling was less intense, and the flavor was a little brighter, and less salty. I think you'll like them. If you can keep from gobbling them all in one sitting, try a simple egg salad (we used only eggs and a light mayonnaise, seasoned with black pepper) for a fresh, new twist on an old standby.
For 6 eggs, bring a pot of water, large enough for eggs to float in freely to a boil. Add eggs and return to boil. Time for 8 minutes, thereafter. (Is this method new to you? Wait 'till you see how easy it makes these eggs to peel. My husband taught me this and I've used it to boil, and peel, perfect eggs every time, since.) Remove eggs and place under cold running water until cool enough to handle.
Return saucepan of water to a simmer. Add 1/4-1/2 cup soy sauce, 1 cup of Thai tea leaves (or 4 bags black tea, for traditional version), 2T cracked red pepper, 1/2c brown sugar, and 3-5 star anise. Crack eggs on a hard surface, until well-crackled all over. The more you crack, the more intricate the design will be. Gently place eggs into simmering liquid, and remove from burner. Let sit until pan comes to room temperature, and refrigerate. Allow eggs to soak in the liquid overnight, or as long as 1-2 days for stronger flavor and effect. Remove from liquid, wipe off, and carefully peel.
Enjoy your little eggy treasures immediately, or for those of you with more discipline, they can be refrigerated for 5-7 days.
A few notes:
If you're raising your own chickens, (and if you are, you probably already know this) using your freshest eggs will do nothing more than cause you to pull most of your hair out when attempting to peel. Eggs that are at least a week or two old will make the job so much more pleasant.
Thai tea leaves, while a delicious substitution that we will adopt, have an orange hue, and makes a tea egg more delicately patterned, as you can see in the pictures. Black tea will yield a much darker pattern, if you so desire.
Play around with the seasonings to get your best flavor. See links below for traditional spices, and methods, used.