Chinese Tea Eggs (茶葉蛋)

Chinese Tea Eggs (茶葉蛋)

Tea eggs (茶葉蛋), also known as marbled eggs, is such an iconic Chinese snack that's not only common in mainland China but also in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, and pretty much most Chinese communities. Growing up, I would see them being sold in food storefronts, usually next to other street food like gai daan jai (鷄蛋仔 or egg waffles), curry fish balls, fish siu mai, and other fried goodies. Some restaurants in Chinatown would have tea eggs on the menu too, if you're in luck. While tea eggs are sold more commonly by street vendors in mainland China (and often eaten as breakfast), you can also see them sold in 7-elevens and night markets in Taiwan.

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The flavor of tea eggs is quite unique built up by some really good spices like cinnamon, star anise, and dried orange peel, along with the infused liquid by soy sauce and tea. It sounds kind of fancy, doesn't it?

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^ This is why they're also called "marbled eggs" because of the pattern it creates on the surface of the egg during the cooking process.

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Get your liquid and spices going by heating it up in a pot. Bring it to a boil then leave it to simmer.

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In another sauce pan, we're pre-boiling the eggs. Put your eggs in and fill water up to 1" over the surface of the eggs. Turn on the heat, add 1 tsp of salt, and let it cook until it's reached the boiling point. Once water starts to boil, turn off the heat, and let the eggs sit in the hot water. Cover with lid, and set your timer for 8 minutes. (A perfect hard-boiled takes 13 minutes, but we're PRE-boiling here.)

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Drain them out of the hot water and put them in an ice bath for about 5 minutes (or run them under cold water).

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Using the back of a butter knife, crack the egg all around but leave the shell on.

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After you're done cracking all the eggs. Turn off the heat on the simmering liquid, place the eggs in the pot with the lid on. Let the eggs marinate overnight (transfer pot to the fridge once it has cooled down completely). When you're ready to serve them the next day, simply reheat (but not boil).

It's possible to leave the eggs to marinate for a shorter amount of time (at least 4 hours). However, eggs will not be as flavorful as they would being marinated overnight.

You can eat tea eggs plain or cut them in halves and serve them with a bowl of noodle soup!

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Chinese Tea Eggs (茶葉蛋)

Prep time: 20 mins  Cook time: 4 hours  Total time: 4 hours 20 mins

Serves: 9 eggs

You'll need:

  • Pre-boiling:
  • 9 eggs
  • Fill water up to 1″ above surface of eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Liquid:
  • 6 cups water
  • 3 tbsp loose pu-erh tea leaves (普洱茶)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 star anise
  • 4 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorn
  • A couple pieces of dried orange peel (store-bought or homemade)

Approach:

  1. Get your liquid and spices going by heating it up in a pot or sauce pan. Bring it to a boil then leave it to simmer.
  2. Pre-boil the eggs in another pot by filling water up to 1″ over the surface of the eggs. Turn on the heat, add 1 tsp of salt, and let it cook until it’s reached the boiling point. Once water starts to boil, turn off the heat, and let the eggs sit in the hot water. Cover with lid, and set your timer for 8 minutes. (A perfect hard-boiled takes 13 minutes, but we’re PRE-boiling here.)
  3. Drain them out of the hot water and put them in an ice bath for about 5 minutes (or run them under cold water).
  4. Using the back of a butter knife, crack the egg all around but leave the shell on.
  5. Turn off the heat on the simmering liquid pot, place the eggs in the pot with the lid on. Let the eggs marinate overnight (transfer pot to the fridge once it has cooled down completely).
  6. When you‘re ready to serve them the next day, simply reheat (but not boil).

Notes:

It’s possible to leave the eggs to marinate for a shorter amount of time (at least 4 hours). However, eggs will not be as flavorful as they would being marinated overnight.