Chinese Tea Eggs, seen here with and without shells.
I don't know about you, but I prefer my craft projects to be easy. And if they happen to result in something edible, whether that be a gingerbread house or a candy necklace, all the better. So ... introducing Chinese Tea Eggs, a craft project that's not only easy but looks impressive, and tastes good (as long as you're already a fan of hardboiled eggs, that is). In China these savory snacks are sold by street vendors or in night markets. I've even read that they're sold along hiking trails outside of Beijing as trail snacks.
Making them involved incorporating several spices I already had at home and some black tea, and left my kitchen smelling spicy (in a good way) for several hours. The taste is simple — it's basically a hardboiled egg that comes pre-seasoned, since you don't have to add your own salt, and instead can just peel and taste the slight astringency of the tea, plus salty soy sauce and the shades of flavor added by the cinnamon sticks, cloves and anise.
Chinese Tea Eggs (which my daughter referred to as "dinosaur eggs," for their looks) have a unique marbled look achieved by first hard boiling the eggs, then tapping the shells to crack them all over, and finally boiling and soaking them in a mixture of tea and spices for that unique brown/black color. While I was particularly concerned that peeling the shells off these eggs was going to be a touchy business, it was actually quite easy after all that steeping in liquid. Some recipes suggest you let these eggs steep in the tea and spices mixture for anywhere from eight hours to two days (!), but I found that four hours was plenty, both for color and flavor.
Chinese Tea Eggs
- Six eggs
- 2 tsp black tea (or two tea sachets)
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 cloves
- 2 star anise
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- Put eggs in a medium pot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil and then simmer the eggs in the water for 15 minutes. (I live at 8,000 feet, so our water boils faster up here. This step is just about simply hardboiling the eggs, so do it whichever way works for you.)
- Use a spoon to remove the eggs from the hot water and stick them in a bowl of ice water to make peeling easier down the road. While they soak, add the remaining ingredients to the pot of hot water.
- Remove the eggs from the ice water and tap them all over with the back of a spoon. The more they crack, the more of the marbling effect you'll get once you peel them. But try not to break off large pieces of the shell.
- After cracking them, return them to the water on the stove that's full of tea, spices and soy sauce. You'll want to let them simmer for at least an hour or two. I simmered my eggs for two and a half hours and then turned the heat off, letting them soak for an extra hour and a half.
- Remove them from the pot and gently remove the shell. You can either eat them immediately or refrigerate first, but I'd recommend leaving the shell in tact if you're going to refrigerate them for more than a few hours before eating.
- Take some pictures to impress your friends — I promise this is a craft project that looks like a lot of work, but really isn't. (Shh.)
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Piper FosterApril 4, 2012 at 4:06 pm
Naomi thanks for the tricks! these are beautiful and I’m eager to try.
A tip I might suggest would be to pierce the eggs with a fine pin before boiling them. the germans do this and it keeps the egg shells from breaking under the pressure of boiling.
JT HunterApril 5, 2012 at 12:08 am
Great recipe! I love Chinese eggs as I live in China and eat them all the time. What kind of Chinese black tea is best to be used for this? For example a Wuyi black tea or a Yunnan black tea? Have you ever tried green tea for this?
I use this Black tea to make mine:
Let me know.
naomiApril 5, 2012 at 12:43 pm
Good tip, Piper — thanks! I think my mom used to do that with eggs too (she’s German … maybe that’s where that comes from! Now I have to ask her.).
And JT: I think any black tea would work. I had some bags of English Breakfast from Paisley Tea Co. in my kitchen (it’s our newest tea — search for it on our website!) and that worked well, since it’s meant to be strong black tea. And I never have used green tea for this recipe … I wonder if that would give the eggs an astringent edge that I might not like. If you try it, please let us know!
Thanks both of you for your thoughtful comments, and cheers!
ChrisApril 8, 2012 at 7:48 am
Thanks for the recipe made these yesterday using 2 leaves & a Bud Darjeeling sachets. They were wonderful! Will make these again. Perfect party nibblers.