It’s snowing here. If you know anything about the west coast of Canada you will know that it rarely snows here, especially in February. As I sit in my warm house watching the soft flakes fall I am reminded of the time when snow fell on Shanghai about 12 years ago.
I was heading back to work after lunch (as a teacher) with a colleague when suddenly we noticed that what we thought was rain was actually snow! It was the last thing either of us thought would happen. The school guard animately pointed to the sky and smiled, at least he was happy about it as were the kids though they were not allowed out in it.
I remember clutching a bag with two tea eggs inside that was meant for an after school snack. I had come to know one of the street vendors who would sell tea eggs along with cōngyóubǐng (green onion pancakes) and yóutiáo (deep fried dough sticks). It became a routine to grab two at lunch or right after work and have a short conversation with him.
This memory, the fact that Spring Festival just ended and my sister currently being in Taiwan munching down on copious amounts of street prepared tea eggs meant I started to crave them. To that end I decided to make some at home.
Tea eggs have got to be one of the simplest yet creative ways to enjoy eggs. How they came about I don’t know and have not found any solid facts or proof regarding their origins. Although most popular in China and sold on the street I have seen them in restaurants and convenience stores such as 7-eleven and know they have become popular in other Asian countries.
Flavour wise the eggs taste of savoury spices. While I have put each spice in separately you could opt to make tea eggs with black tea, soy sauce, and Chinese five spice which is often found at most grocery stores these days. I like being able to control how much of each spice I put in the broth.
While making these your kitchen will be filled with a variable cornucopia of smells. It will feel like you have just walked into a old Chinese apothecary or down a back street in old Shanghai where people are preparing food.
The marbling affect on the whites happen as the broth permeates the shell and soaks into the egg. I love the thin spider web like designs criss-croosings over the egg, it add a touch of eerie beauty to it. I have seen and eaten some tea eggs which are not marbled.
Theses are first boiled completely before the shell is removed and then submerged into the tea broth. This makes the whole egg turn a dark brown. While I guess you get more flavour from the broth this way its just as pretty!
- 3 Star anise
- 1 Cinnamon stick
- 2 bags black tea or 4 Tbsp loose black tea
- 1 Tsp peppercorns
- 6 Tbsp tamari soy sauce
- 1 Tsp sugar
- Enough water to submerge eggs x2
- Bowl of cold water
- Gently put the eggs into a pot of water using a large spoon.Bring to a boil and cook for 5-6 minutes. You want the whites to solidify so the cracking part does not make it all fall out.
- Once done remove from heat, quickly scoop out the eggs, and transfer to a bowl of cold water until cool.
- In the meantime, prepare the tea broth by adding the rest of the ingredients to a medium pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Once the eggs are cooled, lightly crack the egg shells with a small spoon. This is the part where you need to be very careful and gentle. You want to crack the shell without doing damage to the insides.
- Add eggs to tea broth, gently stir then place lid on top and let simmer for 3 hours. Best to have an alarm on to tell you when they are finished. Also make sure to check eggs occasionally to see if more water is needed.
- Once done, remove from heat. At this point you can enjoy the eggs hot from the pot or wait and let them cool down. You can also leave them in the pot of tea broth overnight, this helps to bring out a stronger flavour.
- Eggs can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.