Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Chinese Tea Eggs - updated 2/16

Teaching in Chinatown has its perks, many of them culinary. In addition to the restaurants, our students bring us delicious treats like homemade Chinese tamales (zhong or zongzi) and beautifully marbled tea eggs. Start this recipe about 24 hours ahead. 

Tea eggs are hard boiled eggs boiled again and steeped for a few hours in soy sauce, tea and warm spices. You can buy one at some Chinese restaurants for about 75 cents each, a bargain for a snack in my opinion. However, the lady who works at the one nearest me tends to yell at everyone and my students insist that 75 cents for one egg is too much money, so I asked my wonderful colleague Debra for her recipe. Here it is with a couple of minor changes. Now that eggs have been exonerated by the medical establishment, I hope you'll try this and enjoy them!
First, bring half a dozen eggs to a boil. As soon as the pot is really boiling, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let sit for 8-12 minutes (8 min if you want the  yolks a little soft, 12 minutes if you want them completely hard-cooked). 

You can use whatever eggs you have on hand, brown, white, blue...I'm just using white to show the color contrast. 
While they cook, add to another pot and bring to a simmer:
-3 c water
-3 Tbsp regular soy sauce (if you have dark soy sauce, use 2 Tbsp regular and 1 Tbsp dark)
-1 tsp salt
-a 1 inch piece of ginger
-1 cinnamon stick
-1 or 2 pods of star anise (most recipes call for 2, but I like just 1)
-a piece of fresh or dried tangerine or mandarin rind
-2 black tea bags (Lipton is fine) or a total of 2-3 Tbsp loose-leaf black tea. I have some loose leaf Oolong and one black tea bag here. 

Drain the hot water from the eggs and fill the pot with very cold water and a few ice cubes. When the eggs are cool enough to pick up, take each one out, hold it in one hand and tap all around the egg with the back of a spoon to create a network of tiny cracks all over. Don't remove any big pieces of the shell. You can take off a couple of tiny ones. 

Here's the step I only found on one blog I'll be consulting more often, Christine's Recipes: sterilize a pin and poke holes through the shell and white to help the flavoring get inside the eggs. You can skip this if you want, but I noticed a difference. 

Put the eggs in the pot of tea and flavorings and make sure the water just covers the eggs (or covers them by about an inch). Simmer for 10 minutes, then turn off the burner and let sit for an hour or two at room temp, then put in the fridge for about 24 hours. 

Pack an egg up to peel and eat as a work or school snack, or warm them up and serve at home. 

Clockwise from top: tea egg in formerly white shell, tea egg out of shell, marbled shell, star anise pod, tea leaf, cinnamon stick. If you only have these ingredients plus the soy sauce, they'll still come out great. 

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