Chinese New Year - Tea Eggs
Chinese New Year is fast approaching (January 31), and having certain foods during the New Year is said to bring good luck. While noodles are for long life and sweets are for happiness, tea eggs are for prosperity. Symbolism aside, tea eggs are a convenient and delicious everyday snack! While you could wait to buy them from a Taiwanese 7-Eleven or from a street vendor in Northern China, you can just as easily make them at home. You’ll need just a handful of ingredients, and a bit of wait time.
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 whole star anise
3 whole cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp Chinese five-spice
1 tbsp brown sugar
15-30g Tea of your choice (I used low-priced Shu puerh)
If you don’t have spices on hand, you can use a chai blend instead. You can also vary the spices according to your tastes. Use soy sauce labeled “dark” or “tamari”; these forms are thicker and deeper in flavor and color. You can also use Kikkoman soy sauce, but double the amount. Fresh eggs tend to be more fragile to peel, and make a messier crackle, so try to use eggs that have been stored in the fridge for a week. You can be creative when choosing a tea, since different types will create different results. For example, lapsang souchong black tea will make the eggs smoky and sharp, while dark oolong tea will make them more roasty and bittersweet. Tea bags will work, but it is better to use a budget loose leaf to maximize the tea flavors. Just avoid white tea and green tea, which are too delicate to use for cooking.
I used 30g from a low-priced shu puerh cake of decent quality. Shu puerh tea usually has a deep, dark flavor, and rarely becomes dry or bitter even when oversteeped, so it stands up well to being cooked for hours in soy sauce. (I also chucked in some old oolong tea that I didn’t like very much… this is great way to finally use up not-so-great tea).
Step 1: Hard-boil the eggs. To hard-boil, Place the eggs in a large saucepan, and add enough water to cover the eggs by about an inch. Add a tablespoon of salt to the water. (It makes the eggs easier to peel.) With low-medium heat, bring the water to a boil. Once the water reaches boiling, turn off the heat and cover the pan with a lid. Let the eggs cook in the covered pan for 15 minutes, then drain the hot water.
Place the eggs in a colander and run them through cold water until cool. (It makes the eggs easier to peel.)
Once the eggs are cool, they’re ready for cracking!
Step 2: Crack the eggshells. Use the back of a spoon to gently but firmly crack the eggshells. It is fine if the shells become slightly deformed, or if tiny bits of shell are falling off, as long as the eggshell isn’t peeling off completely. You can vary the cracking to get different patterns.
Step 3: Place the eggs back in the sauce pan. Add the soy sauce, spices, and tea. Add enough water to cover the eggs by about an inch. With low-medium heat, bring the water to a boil.
Step 4: Lower the heat to bring the water from boiling to simmering. Simmer the eggs for 1 hour. Add water as necessary to keep the eggs at least half-submerged. If the liquid is low, turn the eggs now and then.
Step 5: Transfer the eggs and remaining liquid sauce into a container, and steep the eggs in the sauce overnight (or longer) to make them more flavorful.
Step 6: Keep the eggs stored and unpeeled until you’re ready to eat them; this will keep them fresh and aromatic.
Tea eggs are versatile and convenient; you can serve them hot or cold, with or without condiments, on their own or in other dishes. They’ll keep for about a week in the fridge (if you can manage not to eat them all in one day), so make more rather than less!
Try serving these tea eggs with a Chinese green tea, like our Longwu Dragon Well or Meijiawu Dragon Well. The fresh, mineral, nutty Dragon Well profile cuts through the thick egg yolk and soy sauce flavors, making a balanced and refreshing pairing.