Tea eggs, a typical Chinese savoury side dish or snack, take me back to the lunches I used to take to school.
My grandma's tea eggs were my favourite. I made sure to learn her techniques so now I can make them just like she did. My grandma used to soft boil them. Then she gently cracked the shells and submerged the entire eggs into a cold spiced broth of cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, star anise and black tea for hours.
The cracks in the shells let the dark-coloured broth in to marinade the eggs. The broth also stains the cooked egg white with the shape of the cracks to create a pattern that resembles those on marbles. This is why they're also referred to as 'marble eggs'.
"My grandma's tea eggs were my favourite."
My grandma used to soak the cracked eggs in this marinade for 24 hours in the fridge. You can also soak them for two to three days to give them a stronger flavour and keep the yolk nice and creamy. They last for three to fours days in the fridge.
But tea eggs are traditionally a street food. Vendors usually cook them two times to help preserve them for longer. The eggs are hard-boiled - instead of soft boiled. Then they're cooked in the spiced marinade for several hours. Although, this method gives them a rubbery texture.
Whichever method you choose, the beauty of these protein-rich tea eggs is that you can eat them any way you want.
They're delicious warm or cold, as a side with rice and vegetables or on top a bowl of noodle soup. You can even eat them just as they are.
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Grandma's tea eggs
Serves 12 tea eggs
- 12 large eggs
- 4 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce for the rich flavour
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 black tea bags or black tea leaves
- 2 ½ cups water
1. Mix all the ingredients with water in a small pot. Cook over medium heat and bring to a boil. Turn to medium heat. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from your stove, and let it cool. Once done, remove and discard the tea bags.
2. To boil the eggs, heat a pot of water (enough to cover all 12 eggs) over high heat until boiling. Turn to low heat. Carefully place the eggs in the pot with a ladle to prevent the eggs from cracking.
3. Boil the eggs for 5-10 minutes (5 minutes for soft-boiled eggs).
4. After the eggs have cooked and cooled down, gently crack the eggs by using the back of a spoon. You want to make sure the eggshells are cracked enough so that the marinade can reach the interior, but without breaking the eggs apart.
5. Transfer the eggs to a quart-size ziplock bag, then carefully pour the marinade in, along with the dry ingredients. Marinate 24 hours for cracked "marble" eggs. Soak for longer if you want a stronger flavour.
6. Peel the egg shells from the eggs and enjoy them warm, cold or at room temperature.
There are many versions of beef with rice noodles in Chinese cuisine, but they all have one thing in common: they're all equally hearty and comforting on a cold night!
Whenever we travel to China, there is one thing I always get for a snack: cha ye dan, or marbled tea eggs. Tea eggs are incredibly easy and fun to make – simply cook the eggs, crack, then simmer in a tea broth, and finally steep in the broth overnight. The flavour seeps in through the cracks and spreads through the entire egg. It also leaves beautiful marbled lines from the gentle cracks of the shell. I use star anise, cinnamon, five spice, sugar, soy sauce and orange peels as my flavourings, but you could use other spices – cloves, nutmeg, maybe even some bourbon.