Experimenting with Chinese tea eggs

One of our favourite vendors at the Waterfront Asian Night Market, which we attend every year here in Toronto, are the tea eggs. Since the night market is cancelled this year and Mr. Chuckles suddenly had a craving for them, I decided to do a little kitchen experiment and make them on my own.

Tea eggs are a typical Chinese savoury snack food prepared by marinating a boiled egg in a mixture of black tea and spices. They originated in Zhejiang province of China as a means to preserve eggs for prolonged periods, but they have now been popularized throughout the country and in other regions of Asia. The classic presentation of a tea egg involves cracking the shell so that the marinade seeps in, creating a marble-like pattern on the egg white.

Recipe

Adapted from Omnivore’s Cookbook.

Servings: 6-12 eggs | Prep time: 25 minutes | Ready time: 24 hours

Ingredients

  • 6-12 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 black tea bags (or 2 tablespoons black tea leaves)
  • 2ยฝ cups water

Steps

1) Mix all the marinade ingredients in a small pot. Cook over medium heat until it reaches a boil. Turn to medium-low heat. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from your stove and let cool completely. Once done, remove and discard the tea bags.

2) To boil the eggs, heat a pot of water (enough to cover all the eggs) over high heat until boiling. Turn to low heat. Carefully place the eggs in the pot using a ladle, to prevent the eggs from cracking.

3) Boil 5 minutes for soft-boiled eggs, 7 minutes for medium eggs, or 10 minutes for hard-boiled eggs.

4) While cooking the eggs, prepare an ice bath by combining ice and tap water in a big bowl.

5) Once the eggs are cooked, immediately transfer them to the ice bath to cool for 2 to 3 minutes. If you donโ€™t have ice on hand, simply run cool tap water over the eggs for a couple minutes until they cool down.

6) Gently crack the eggs using the back of a spoon. You want to make sure the egg shells are cracked enough so the marinade will reach the interior, without cracking the eggs apart (especially if you made soft boiled eggs). Alternatively, you can peel the eggs and marinate them peeled. The eggs will be ready in 12 hours this way.

7) Transfer the eggs to a quart-size ziplock bag, then carefully pour in the marinade along with the dry ingredients. Marinate overnight for peeled eggs, or 24 hours for cracked โ€œmarbleโ€ eggs.

8) Peel the eggs and enjoy them cold or at room temperature.

๐Ÿง‘๐Ÿปโ€๐Ÿณ Notes from Chuckles

The most challenging ingredients to source for this recipe are the Sichuan peppercorns and star anise. We found these at our local Bulk Barn.

Any black tea will do for the marinade. I used a couple bags of Tetley Orange Pekoe.

The eggs can be kept in the marinade, refrigerated, for up to 5 days. The longer you marinate them, the saltier and more flavourful they become.

If you forego the marbling pattern, which is mainly just for aesthetics, you can produce a more flavourful egg in shorter time by peeling the boiled egg and immersing it fully in the marinade for about 12 hours.