Authentic Chinese Tea Eggs
Tea eggs are typical Chinese snacks, made by boiling an egg, cracking it, and then steeping it in a tea mixture. Another name for tea egg is marble egg because the cracks in the shell make marble patterns.
You can get these from street vendors or in night markets in Chinese communities, as well as in Asian restaurants, or you can make your own. Soy sauce, black tea leaves and spices are used in the original recipe, and some people use 5-Spice powder for flavour. Actually some recipes for tea eggs don’t use tea at all, but they still call them tea eggs.
How They are Made
Eggs are boiled until they are hard, and then taken out of the water. The shell is then gently cracked all over, and smaller ones produce more marbling which you can see when the egg is peeled. Let any extra water from the boiling seep out of the shell on its own.
About 10 minutes later, the eggs can go into the tea mixture and then they are simmered over a medium heat for about 20 minutes, so the tea mixture can seep into the cracks and make the marbling pattern.
Then you need to put the eggs and liquid in a container and refrigerate them. For the best results, let them steep for a few hours or even overnight. Some people steep them for a day and a half, for the richest flavour and colour. Store the finished eggs unpeeled and tightly sealed in a container in the fridge and they will keep 4 or 5 days.
Tea eggs are usually served cold, and the flavour should be part egg and part spices. The egg should have light and dark brown marble patterns on, and the yolk should have a grey layer on the outside and be yellow inside.
Another Tea Egg Cooking Method
Another way to make tea eggs is to boil the eggs, then peel off the shells and steep the peeled eggs in a tea mixture over a low heat for longer. Next the eggs and liquid come off the heat and go into a container for more steeping. You will have the tea color on the egg whites but not the marbling effect; however, this method is faster.
You will see in the following recipe we are using black soy sauce, and this is very different from regular soy sauce. It offers a sweeter flavour and helps colour the egg properly. It is not a salty type of soy sauce. Ensure the cracks in the egg break the thin membrane between the egg and its shell, else you won’t get the marbling.
Photo by AsianSupper, on Flickr
- eggs – 8
- salt – 1 1/4 teaspoons
- water – 750 ml
- soy sauce – 1 tablespoon
- black soy sauce – 1 tablespoon
- cinnamon stick – 5 cm piece
- star anise – 2 pods
- orange zest – 1 tablespoon
- black tea leaves – 2 tablespoons
- Put the eggs and a teaspoon of salt in a large pan, and cover with cold water.
- Bring the eggs to a boil, then turn the heat down.
- Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Take the eggs off the heat, drain off the water and let them cool.
- Tap the shells with a spoon to crack them, but don’t remove the shells.
- Put 750ml of water in a pan with both kinds of soy sauce, the tea leaves, cinnamon, orange zest, star anise and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
- Bring the mixture to a boil them turn down the heat, cover, and simmer for 3 hours.
- Add the eggs and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
- Take the pan off the heat and transfer the eggs and liquid into a tightly sealed container which should now go in the fridge.
- Let them steep for 8 hours or overnight.
- Carefully peel the eggs and serve them cold.