Friday, March 6, 2009

Hard-boiled: Soy sauce eggs and tea eggs

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This past Lunar New Year was, for me, one of my least festive and most lonely. Without my family or any Asian-minded friends around me in Colorado, there was little to do in way of celebration but hang around in my apartment doing homework, wishing there was a parade I could go to or a feast I could attend instead. The only thing I could think of that would be a little out of the ordinary and manageable for a single girl in the kitchen was to make a batch of tea eggs.

There's no reason for tea eggs to be a special occasion recipe, however—the process is dead easy and the ingredient list is simple. I tried to follow Jaden's directions over at Steamy Kitchen, but because I had to leave out the cinnamon stick and star anise (I still haven't stocked my spice rack), in the end I only had black tea, soy sauce, and sugar in my brew. The flavor was different but still good.
After hard-boiling the eggs, lightly cracking their shells with a heavy spoon, simmering them in the tea and soy sauce for two hours, and letting them steep overnight, this is how they looked. More than anything else, I love the beautiful pattern that appears all over the egg once you peel them. Like stained glass, or a drunken spiderweb of sorts, no? Considering these were marinated for so long, they are actually a bit pale—I could have cracked the shells harder to let more of the tea and soy sauce seep in.
Looks aside, the paleness also meant they were bland, so later I peeled all of the remaining eggs and plopped them directly into the tea marinade. After bringing the mixture to a boil, I let them simmer for another hour before taking them off the heat.

It's funny, but Jen at Use Real Butter just wrote a post about eating soy sauce eggs as a kid, which I totally identified with…as a kid I too was ridiculed about the shade of my lunch egg, and found it terribly humiliating when my oddly hued specimen was greeted with a chorus of ewwwws. After the first time, I stopped eating them in public. But you can see how little I care now; I let these eggs become a deep, warm brown. Without their shells hindering the absorption of the tea and soy sauce, their flavor increased by leaps and bounds. Next to dumplings, half a pomelo, and some stir-fried chicken and napa cabbage, these soy/tea eggs were the perfect thing for my solo Lunar New Year's meal.


  1. Yum. I love tea-boiled eggs. If you boil them in lapsang soochong, they have a great smoky flavor that's really good in egg salad.

  2. ooo, a tea-egg salad, that sounds really awesome. experiment time!

  3. Kitt, tea eggs in egg salad? That seems brilliant! I'll have to give it a try.

    stuckinny, it's experiment time for me too! :)

  4. Wow, these eggs bring me back to my childhood in Shanghai! I haven't had them in ages and never thought of remaking them. My bf though not Asian LOVES anything will eggs in it so I'm sure he can learn to appreciate these. Thanks!

  5. this is funny, because I was just thinking how much you would love shanghai. in fact, i could easily see you being the food editor of the local expat mags while teaching on the side. let me know and i can make it happen.

    your eggs look much nicer than the ones we get on the street. they're missing that special dirty quality.

  6. Cookie, you should definitely give them a shot, they're easy! I hope your bf likes them.

    d-ah, don't tempt me with a move to Shanghai, although now you've set that idea percolating for after I graduate…!

  7. Just wanted to say a big thank you for reminding me about tea eggs. I lived and worked in Harbin until 2005 and I sooooo miss China - the people, traditions and food. I used to eat lots of different foods at the open market where I shopped most days. I miss being able to buy 'real' Chinese food. The stuff you get in Chinese shops in the UK never get close to the real thing - and nothing is fresh just pre-packed. Some of my favorite foods were, dumplings, tea eggs and millet porridge - oh and the sticky toffee sweet potato dessert - what a treat!

  8. Anon, your comment got me drooling. Sticky toffee sweet potato dessert? I'm intrigued!